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State Department confirms kidnapping of American couple in Haiti

Two U.S. citizens have been kidnapped in Haiti, the State Department confirmed on Thursday. Jean-Dickens Toussaint and his wife, Abigail Michael Toussaint, were reportedly abducted on March 18. 

"We are in regular contact with Haitian authorities and we'll continue to work with them and our U.S. government interagency partners," State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said during a briefing. 

The Toussaints, who were in the country to visit family, according to relatives, got caught up in a wave of gang-related kidnappings.

The U.N. estimates that 60% of Port-au-Prince is controlled by gangs. On the streets of the capital, Haitians say it's more like 100%.

The gang that kidnapped the Toussaints demanded $200,000 each as a ransom, relatives said. 

At least 101 kidnappings were reported in the first two weeks of March alone, with another 208 people killed in gang clashes during that period, according to the U.N. Most kidnapping victims are Haitian, and gangs pressure families into giving large sums of money for their release. Gangs often take the money but don't release the victims back to their families. 

Haiti has seen a sharp rise in violence; the country has been gripped by gang wars and political chaos following the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise. His unelected successor as head of the government, Prime Minister Ariel Henry, has asked the United Nations to lead a military intervention, but no country has been willing to commit to put boots on the ground.

Relatives of the Toussaints say they are caring for the couple's 2-year-old child while waiting for their release.

Reporting contributed by Camilla Schick

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