♪ this is "nightline." >> tonight, brazen kidnapping. the american missionaries and their children abducted in haiti. a notorious gang controlling the streets, demandng millions in ransom. >> people are scared. there's a lot of people who are afraid to go out of their homes here because of the threat of violence. >> is a rescue possible in this broken country? plus, the golden age of hip hon returns in queens. >> tonight i'm a queen! >> the new abc drama, four women proving they still have it after 20 years. >> i think just being a woman, period, automatically makes you a queen. >> finding sisterhood and second chances.
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a large group of americans and the multimillion-dollar ransom are unusual. abc's marcus moore reports from port-au-prince. >> reporter: the streets of port-au-prince eerily quiet, with the brink, all eyes on haiti. now several days into the hunt for 17 foreigners kidnapped near the nation's capital. 16 americans and one canadian missing. members of the christian aid ministries, based in ohio. five of the kidnapped are children, including an 8-month-old baby. a senior haitian official telling abc news a kidnapping game is demanding $1 million per hostage, a total of $17 million for their release. today's crisis just the latest example in a string of misfortunes hitting the island nation in the past few months. >> there's a lot of people who are afraid to go out of their homes here because of the threat of violence. the gun battles that have happened. the kidnappings that have occurred. everyday people who have been picked up off the street by gangs and then health for
ransom. that's a real concern for so many people here. and they want it to change. >> reporter: after the july asassination of its president, followed by an earthquake five weeks later that killed more than 2,200 and left tens of thousands homeless, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere is now the focus of an international hostage negotiation. >> we have in the administration been relentlessly focused on this, including sending a team to haiti from the state department, working very closely with the fbi, which is the lead in these kinds of matters. >> reporter: the u.s. embassy confirming to abc news that the fbi has made contact with the kidnapping gang, one of the most dangerous in the country. >> it controls a large part of port-au-prince. they're known for kidnapping busloads of individuals, carloads, vanloads. other gangs in haiti might focus
on grabbing a white perch here on there, in this case they will probably ask $20,000 or $50,000 for the entire vehicle, which is much easier for people to raise. it means less time in captivity. and often it doesn't make headlines. >> reporter: while gangs control much of the capital, locals are frequently their target. this one is different. >> this particular kidnapping, what makes it odd or stands out is because it's americans, right? it's charitable workers. usually they fear the americans, they fear the foreigner, and that's what haitians are saying. that if they can go that far that means me, my neighbor, my children, anybody is potentially the next victim. >> this isn't about some religion or some philosophical bent. this is just out-and-out money. it happens all the time in organized crime, in drug cartels. people get kidnapped every day, held for ransom. you never hear about them. law enforcement doesn't know about them. they pay up, the person comes
back, they go on. >> reporter: one who knows the ways of this again all too well, father jean milan,napril. >> it is very difficult. you're at your house, you go to celebra celebrate, on the street someone kidnaps you. >> you were held hostage for 20 days? >> 20 days. >> tell me what that moment was like. >> i lost some weight, become weak. we didn't have a hope. our hope is one day we are going to be free of everything. >> so kidnappings like father jean milan's becoming all too common. >> often they are not reported to the police. we hear about them on social media or through word of mouth. but let's be clear, there have been over 44 nationals kidnapped in haiti this year. there have been hundreds, according to the u.n., 600 and more kidnappings. these are everyday haitians,
from schoolchildren, from poor people who are working in markets, to doctors. >> if you look at the numbers, sienhe ey know if they do these mass kidnappings, in other words, multiple people, that will translate into more money. >> reporter: that fear felt by many, like godwin, a missionary from miami, who's been in haiti the last three years. >> people are being kidnapped left and right. you are able to identify the people that are getting kidnapped, but now it's totally random. i think everyone here in haiti has some sense of fear. >> reporter: he says the alarming surge in abductions comes as gangs become more and more confident. >> they don't have any repercussi repercussions. there's no security, there's no police, there's no one to come help. and that's probably the worst thing. you're on your own. >> reporter: instability here increasing since the 2010 earthquake, leading many to
flee. tens of thousands of them showed up last month in texas, hoping for asylum. since then, more than 2,000 haitians have been deported back to their homeland. now in the fifth day of the hostage situation, the white house tight-lipped about its plans for negotiations now under way. even declining to confirm reports that the $17 million ransom is being made. >> i can't get into too many details operationally here because that's never been in the interests of bringing people home who are being held for ransom. >> the reason you don't talk about that is that you're literally trying to negotiate. and the idea that that would be in public would go against what you're trying to do. >> reporter: in fact, the united states has provided upwards of $15 million in assistance to haiti's national police in recent weeks, in part to aid anti-gang violence efforts. christian aid ministries, based in ohio, has been operating in the country since 1984. this group of missionaies said
to be returning from this orphanage they had been repairing when they were kidnapped. the organization putting out a statement requesting prayer and stating that many people, including cam management, and haitian and u.s. authorities, are working diligently to bring our loved ones home to safety. >> in addition to hostage negotiators attempting to engage these gang members, there will be the intelligence community, probably d.o.d., department of defense, and some other agencies, that are attempting to run or are running sources in haiti. >> reporter: on the streets in port-au-prince, haitians are visibly distraught by the ongoing violence and unrest that has plagued the country. our car was turned around repeatedly as part of a national strike against the government, demanding any response to the economic struggles, the violence, and kidnappings. we tried to drive up the road earlier. and we were told to turn around. that is bet of what life is like
right now here in port-au-prince. people are angry. and they want stability in their country. one man i met in a park wants the world to know that while americans are patiently awaiting the return of the kidnapped, haitians are reeling at what's become of their country. "things are not good at all for the moment right now. there are thieves and kidnappers, people can't go out. it's not only americans that are victims of this, it's haitians also." >> reporter: in a nation both deeply spiritual and religious, well over 80% of haitians are christian. prayer can often seem like the only light in the midst of a dark tunnel. father milan's message is to keep the faith. >> you never lost hope in that moment, those 20 days? >> in the time it's difficult. but we do not have to lose our hope in god.
>> reporter: on our way out of his monastery, he insisted we pray together. >> of the father, of the son, of the holy spirit -- >> reporter: not just for the 17 held hostage, but for the others who aren't in captivity but feel like hostages in their own country. for "nightline," i'm marcus moore in port-au-prince, haiti. >> our thanks to marcus. up next, the new abc drama "queens." bringing us back to a golden era. ♪ can't handle the speed i kick him to the curb ♪ ♪ i want to be a nasty girl i want to spend time ♪ thursday on "nightline." >> guns off the ground, go! >> we talk to the cast of the highly anticipated sci-fi epic "dune." >> i would have played the sand in this movie, had they offered it to me.
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