The Haitian police went back to the vicinity of the village where two Christian missionaries had been abducted this week to look for the vehicle used in the kidnapping, said Pierre Lebreton, deputy chief of the Grand Anse police.
The police say they have also been in contact with the parents of the two Americans and have seen pictures of them. They have also spoken to the other Christian missionary and are trying to confirm that he was not still in custody, Lebreton said.
The parents of the American missionaries have made contact with the authorities, said Lebreton, who spoke to CNN.
An eight-member gang has been holding the three American missionaries hostage for two days, the Haitian police said Friday.
The five men and two women — all from the United States and all employed by the Smallville Global Ministries organization — were kidnapped late Thursday from a remote road in the Grand Anse department, a mountainous region of southern Haiti. Their bodies have been abandoned along a nearby river, police said.
“This is the worst abuse that human beings can undergo,” said Paul Stoy, associate professor at Georgia State University. “It’s so awful.”
Deyan Manasseh, a senior missionary for the group, told CNN the group went off-roading in the mountains after a briefing where the group’s pastor asked about Haiti’s situation, particularly in relation to cholera.
“When you do things off-roading you go places without adequate chains to keep you. That was what they took us in,” Manasseh said.
Shortly after arriving in the hills at 1:30 a.m. local time on Thursday, the group got a call on their cell phones, said Manasseh, who met the two American women, who are cousins, as they were escaping.
Before leaving, he said, he told them, “Let’s go, we’re off-roading. We’re not going to the church house tonight, that’s for sure.”
Later, a knife-wielding man wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying an AK-47 began beating each woman and removing the GPS that they were carrying. After taking three hours to make one pass, the group ducked into a nearby hospital for cover, he said.
Manasseh said the women then contacted the pastor’s son to ask him to call the police so they could be rescued. He said they were fearful for their lives, fearing that the armed men would kill them and burn their bodies.
After an hour, they saw the men heading their way again, with what appeared to be six vehicles, he said. Minutes later, a man approached the compound and said he was the abductors’ contact with the police.
“He says we have to turn ourselves in by 1 p.m.,” he said. “You’re not going to jail and the people of Grand Anse know that the police are not going to come out on you, so you’re going to put yourselves in handcuffs.”
After about 30 minutes, one of the hostages told Manasseh that she had heard the police were coming, he said.
He and other church members formed a line and waited for the police.
After some delay, the police and gunmen began negotiating, he said. As he heard them tell the kidnappers they would free their “pariahs,” Manasseh said, the group thought they were getting closer to freedom.
When the police officer — his hands handcuffed behind his back — reached for the men’s cellphones, the kidnappers pulled him to the ground and beat him, Manasseh said.
“The people who did this are animals. I can’t explain what I feel. I can’t explain what I’m going through,” Manasseh said. “I’m gonna go to my grave this way. For these people, my children, they’re my life.”
He said that he watched as his wife, his daughter and her boyfriend were taken by the same group. He said he heard his 14-year-old son cried as he tried to hold him back from looking at the men in the street.
He said he cried until he was nearly overcome.
The grand chief of Grand Anse called the incident “an act of cowardice.”
“We do not have to tolerate this, because we love our people and it is not our culture to break others in these circumstances,” said Marcial Desrosiers, the chief.
Stoy, the Associate Professor at Georgia State University, compared the situation to that of the three Americans in 1979 in El Salvador, where they were captured after being granted asylum in a church. They were eventually released without trial.