Saturday, December 03, 2005

Kidnapping Part III

Okay, okay, okay. I promise, no more about kidnapping . . . at least for today. It’s just that John’s down in our room, examining the buckshot-sprayed shoulder of the kidnap victim, Phillip, who was released this afternoon. At the end of this post is a newspaper article about his release. Read on for the real scoop.

Phillip’s SUV was ambushed by some rock-throwing dirt bandits near Cité Soleil, a large and dangerous slum filled with more than 200,000 desperately poor people, almost all of whom are victims also. For some reason, (God’s instinct), Phillip ducked to the right just as bullets were flying through both front seat windows, so the bullets missed his chest and hit his shoulder. He got out of the truck along with a Haitian man and a 4-year-old boy whom Phillip was taking to the U.S. embassy to get a medical visa for.

“Six hands were in my back pocket trying to get out my wallet, which was jammed in at an angle,” said Phillip. “I worked my hand in there and pulled out my wallet, and handed it to them.” The thieves ran with his wallet, and as Phillip stood there, dazed, a U.N tank rumbled by offering no assistance.

It was really Phillip’s unlucky day as it wasn’t this first group of criminals who kidnapped him, but a second, who pounced upon this bleeding, vulnerable American. The kidnappers commandeered Phillip’s phone and proceeded to call everyone in his address book demanding money. His son Chad negotiated with the criminals and the price proceeded downward from $300,000. As the day wore on, the bandits demands dropped to $2,000 U.S. and $10,000 Haitian.

At this point, Phillip’s family was a little worried that something really bad had happened to him. Why the dramatic decrease in the ranson demand? However, Phillip told us that about the time the price dropped, another Cité Soleil leader came into talk with him. He told Phillip, “If I had you, I’d let you go. You’ve been here 26 years (as a missionary) trying to help our people.” Apparently, this gang leader’s influence along with the fact that it was Friday and the kidnappers wanted to party and buy some guns (now there’s a recipe for trouble) convinced the kidnappers to drop their price.

A brave Haitian family friend (it’s always the Haitians who get the really dirty jobs) was drafted to drop off the money. He walked into Cité Soleil, and while he walked the kidnappers called him 5 times on his cell phone giving him directions. They led him to a place where he met a guy who insured he had the money and then put a gun to his head, saying he was going to kill him. Nice. Instead, Phillip and the little boy came out and they all took a tap tap to safety.

Phillip’s shoulder is okay. He’s a cool dude; I don’t think everything’s sunk in yet. The darling little boy who was kidnapped with him needs surgery because he ran into a nail sticking out of the wall at eye level, and he has to have his eye removed. Do the wonders of Haiti ever cease? Now, a U.S. senator has arranged for a plane to pick up this little boy and fly him to the States. We’d love Jackson to be on that plane, too.

Here’s the A.P. article on Phillip’s release.



PORT-AU-PRINCE, Dec 2 (AP) -- Gunmen have released 14 Haitian children
and an American missionary who were abducted in separate incidents, police
said Friday.
The missionary, Phillip Snyder, was released Friday after a ransom was
paid, said police Commissioner Francois Henri Doussous, head of Haiti's
anti-kidnapping unit. He would not specify how much was paid but said it
was "much less" than the $300,000 the kidnappers initially sought.
The gunmen released the children and their school bus driver unharmed
Thursday night, hours after their bus was hijacked by gunmen on the way to
The kidnappings came five weeks before national elections to restore
democracy to Haiti, which has seen a sharp increase in abductions amid the
chaos following the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February
Doussous said police did not believe the latest kidnappings were
politically motivated. "This is purely criminal activity, the gangs need
money," he said.
It was not immediately clear who paid the ransom for Snyder. Doussous
said the kidnappers were members of criminal gangs based in Cite Soleil, a
sprawling seaside slum that is a base for heavily armed gangs blamed for
numerous kidnappings.
Snyder, 48, was treated for a gunshot wound to his shoulder and released
from a U.N. military hospital, police said. The president of Zeeland,
Mich.-based Glow Ministries International was abducted Thursday on the main
road leading north from the Haitian capital.
"My father is fine," Chad Snyder, the kidnapped missionary's son, said
in a brief telephone interview in Port-au-Prince.
The missionary's wife, Amber Snyder, said before his release that she
and her husband were aware of the dangers in Haiti but kept it in the back
of their minds. She said her husband's family has worked in Haiti for more
than three decades helping the poor.
"He's a foreigner. They assume every foreigner has money or has
resources," Amber Snyder, who met her husband on a Christian mission trip
in Haiti when she was 17, told The Associated Press before hearing of her
husband's release.
A young boy kidnapped along with Snyder was freed and in good condition.
The missionary had been helping the boy obtain a medical visa so he could
have eye surgery, Amber Snyder said.
"There's a tremendous sense of relief," Amber Snyder's uncle, Denny
Bull, said from Zeeland after Snyder was freed. "We had confidence that
this would happen. We just did not know when."
Haitian radio reported that an unspecified ransom was paid for the
kidnapped children, but Doussous said the gunmen received no money. He said
they released the hostages because of intense public attention and because
police checkpoints prevented them from returning to Cite Soleil on the
outskirts of Port-au-Prince.
The children were aged 5-17. There were no arrests.
Doussous said police favored negotiating with the gangs, fearing that a
raid on Cite Soleil would ignite a large-scale gun battle, endangering
innocent bystanders.
A U.N. peacekeeper was killed by gangs in October during a raid in Cite
Soleil to release a kidnap victim.
Associated Press Writer David Eggert in Zeeland, Mich., contributed to
this report.

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