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All 17 missionaries held hostage in Haiti have been released, police say

Missionaries return home after Haiti kidnapping
Missionaries return home after Haiti kidnapping 01:52

A group of 17 people who were being held hostage by a gang in Haiti have all been released. Haitian police spokesman Gary Desrosiers confirmed to CBS News on Thursday that 12 remaining hostages were freed, after five were let go previously.

Their church organization said in a statement, "We glorify God for answered prayer-the remaining twelve hostages are FREE! Join us in praising God that all seventeen of our loved ones are now safe. Thank you for your fervent prayers throughout the past two months. We hope to provide more information as we are able."

The group of missionaries were kidnapped while on their way home from building an orphanage on October 16 by a gang called "400 Mawozo." The gang controls the Croix-des-Bouquets area in Haiti that includes Ganthier – a commune where the gang carries out kidnappings and carjackings, the Associated Press reports.

All 17 missionaries free after being kidnapped in Haiti two months ago 04:42

The group included 16 Americans and one Canadian. Five are children, according to the Associated Press. Two hostages were freed in November and three more were released earlier this month.

"Today is the day we have been hoping for, praying for, and working so hard to achieve," Congressman Bill Huizenga of Michigan, where some of the hostages are from, said in a statement Thursday. "I want to thank members of the hostage negotiation team for their diligence in securing the safe release of all the hostages. This is a great day for families in Michigan and across the nation who have been worried about the safety of their loved ones."

Michèle Montas, a Haitian journalist and former U.N. spokesperson, told CBS News "the kidnapping of these American missionaries and their prolonged detention have brought the attention of the world on the deteriorating security situation in Haiti." 

Montas' husband,  Jean Dominique,  was killed in 2000 after the duo founded Radio Haiti, the country's leading news media.

"Kidnappings have become a daily occurrence  … . Gangs are controlling access to Port-au- Prince from the southern part of the country," Montas said. "The Mawozo gang that kept the foreign missionaries captive northeast of the capital have been attacking passenger buses, taking their belongings from them with a police force unable to control the situation and a de facto government totally powerless in controlling the security situation."

Pamela Falk contributed to this report.

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