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400 Mawozo gang leader charged over kidnapping of American missionaries in Haiti

The leader of a violent Haitian gang has been charged in connection with the kidnapping of an Ohio-based Christian missionary group in Port-au-Prince last October, the Department of Justice announced on Tuesday.

The big picture: Joly Germine, 29, also known as “Yonyon,” is the first person to be charged over the armed abduction of the 16 Americans, including five children, and one Canadian citizen in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, per a DOJ statement that notes most of the missionaries “were held captive for 61 days before escaping.”

The 400 Mawozo gang’s youngest kidnapping victim was 8 months old, the Justice Department said.

Driving the news: Germine was transferred from a Haitian jail into U.S. custody on May 3 on firearms trafficking charges in a separate case and was indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia on Tuesday for conspiracy to commit hostage taking, the Justice Department said.

Federal prosecutors allege that Germine was in a Haitian prison when he “directed and asserted control of 400 Mawozo gang members’ kidnapping operations, including ransom negotiation for the hostages’ release.””One of the gang’s stated goals in holding the hostages was to secure from the Haitian government Germine’s release from prison,” according to the DOJ.

What they’re saying: “This case shows that the Justice Department will be relentless in our efforts to track down anyone who kidnaps a U.S. citizen abroad,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

“We will utilize the full reach of our law enforcement authorities to hold accountable anyone responsible for undermining the safety of Americans anywhere in the world,” he added.