Kidnapped Candian missionary freed in Haiti

By Joseph Guyler Delva

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - A Canadian missionary held by kidnappers in Haiti for almost a week was freed after a US$2000 ($3332) ransom was paid, according to a Haitian police official.

The missionary, Ed Hughes, was released unharmed on Saturday night and two people were taken into custody, judicial police commissioner Michael Lucius said.

"He was released by his captors after we conducted an operation in the area where he was held," Lucius said.

Hughes was kidnapped on June 19 in an orphanage he runs in Cabaret, 20 km north of the capital Port-au-Prince.

The poorest country in the Americas had enjoyed a brief period of calm following the February election of President Rene Preval, regarded as a champion of Haiti's masses of poor.

Hughes had been a victim of crime before. Last year, most of his right arm had to be amputated after he was shot by gunmen apparently intent on kidnapping someone else at the mission.

Lucius said police were still looking for two suspects thought to be the main figures behind a kidnapping spree in Cabaret.

Both suspects - Desir Jean Tardieu, known as the "Joker," and Peterson Cheristin, known as "Sonson" - escaped from prison on April 8, where they were being held on accusations they beheaded a witch doctor.

Hughes' abductors initially demanded US$100,000 to free him.

More than 2000 people have been kidnapped for ransom in the Caribbean country over the past two years.

But armed gangs in some of the most violent shanty towns declared a cease-fire during the February election.

The election was the first since former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was driven into exile by an armed revolt and mounting pressure to quit in February 2004.

Police and officials in a Brazilian-led UN peacekeeping force that has tried to keep factions supporting and opposing Aristide apart since his ouster say they have noticed an increase in crime and violence in recent weeks.

- REUTERS

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