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News Americas, FORT LAUDERDALE, FL, Weds. April 5, 2023: A Tamarac, Florida couple remains kidnapped in Haiti even as a new report says kidnappings have jumped three fold this year alone in the Caribbean nation.

Abigail Toussaint and Jean-Dickens Toussaint, both 33, were taken on March 18th near the capital Port-au-Prince. They were in Haiti to see ailing relatives and attend a community festival when they were kidnapped while traveling on a bus from the capital.

To date they have not been released. A spokesperson for the US State Department told News Americas that “the U.S. Department of State and our embassies and consulates abroad have no greater priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas.”

“We can confirm the kidnapping of two U.S. citizens in Haiti. We are in regular contact with Haitian authorities and will continue to work with them and our U.S. Government interagency partners. We have nothing further to share at this time,” the statement added.

The Toussaints remain kidnapped as a rights group in Haiti, CARDH, said Tuesday that at least 389 kidnappings were registered in Haiti in the first three months of this year. This marks a three-fold increase from the last quarter of 2022 as gangs look to recoup losses from international sanctions.

The kidnappings seen between January and March are more than triple the 127 CARDH recorded in the previous quarter, and a 72% increase from the same period a year earlier. Of the 389 kidnappings recorded by CARDH, 29 victims were from foreign countries.

“Gangs use extreme violence (all forms of torture) to force parents and families to pay large sums of U.S. money that they do not have,” CARDH said, citing severe burns, gang rapes and hangings.

A family friend who met the South Florida couple at the airport to escort them was also kidnapped, their niece, Christie Desormes, told ABC Miami affiliate WPLG.

“They stopped the bus … and they asked for the Americans on the bus and their escorts to come off the bus and then they took them,” Desormes told the station.

The kidnappers initially demanded $6,000 for the couple’s release, Nikese Toussaint, the sister of Jean Dickens Toussaint, told ABC News. Though once they sent the money, the price went up to $200,000 per person and “we don’t have that type of money,” Desormes told WPLG.

The couple has a two-year-old son. A petition to bring them home has so far garnered over 6,000 of 7,500 signatures. Family members say they have so far got less than five minutes to speak with their loved ones.

In the aftermath of the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise, gangs have grown in strength, with large portions of the capital and other areas considered lawless territory.

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