U.S. missionary couple, 2 Haitian workers released after months in captivity

WASHINGTON — A U.S. missionary couple and two Haitian co-workers have been released from captivity in Haiti one day after the kidnapping of their group.

Kelvin Dede, a spokesman for the leader of the, said Wesley and Theresa Prieur and their volunteer co-workers “are safe and being interviewed by officials in Port-au-Prince.”

Kelvin’s brother Brian Dede told the Gainesville Sun that an unspecified amount of ransom was paid to secure their release, although he declined to provide the exact amount.

“Nobody’s just going to let a family down because of a little money,” he said.

The kidnapping of the eight Americans and one other woman came one day after a U.S. Marine stationed in the country was freed by the militants who held him captive. They’d stopped their vehicle and taken the Marine into the hills near the Haitian town of Nippes.

Officials on Thursday identified the man as Sgt. 1st Class Jefferson Allen of the Reconnaissance Platoon of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Allen was kidnapped Tuesday night while conducting reconnaissance in Arculte Meille, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Port-au-Prince.

The car that Allen had been riding in was stopped by unidentified men, who forced the sergeant into the hills.

No other details about Allen’s rescue were available Thursday evening. U.S. Navy officials said details were still being released, but it is believed that Allen was rescued by the military.

Haiti’s police chief, Michel Lopez, said in a Thursday night statement that police suspect that an organized group of gunmen kidnapped the Marines and the Priests, but they have not yet been able to establish who was responsible.

“We know that some of them (the suspects) were local, but some of them are foreigners,” Lopez said.

The kidnapping had been followed by fear and alarm among aid groups working in Haiti. U.S. and Spanish officials said Wednesday that the Priests had reported being held for more than a day and had been moved two times by the kidnappers.

Annibelle Cox, a spokeswoman for Travell Homes, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that works with youth in hard-to-reach and rural areas in Haiti, said Tuesday that she had been contacted by members of the company’s volunteer team to say the Priests and their co-workers had been taken hostage.

— With reports from Associated Press writers Didi Tang in Beijing and Peter Prengaman in Hong Kong.

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