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29652: (news) Chamberlain: Gunmen kidnap children, demand ransom (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     By Joseph Guyler Delva

      PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Gunmen have abducted at
least seven children in a suburb of Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince, the
latest in a wave of kidnappings for ransom in the poor Caribbean nation,
police said on Thursday.
     "Now the kidnappers target children because they know the children are
our hearts. They want to hit us in the heart so they can get the money more
rapidly," said Fred Blaise, a spokesman for the United Nations police force
in Haiti.
     The captors demanded an undisclosed ransom for the children, and U.N.
and Haitian police were attempting to negotiate their release.
     "We are in communication with the bandits in order to secure the
release of the children," Blaise said.
     The children were kidnapped on Wednesday when their school bus was
hijacked on its way to school in the suburb of Marin. Police did not
disclose their exact number nor their ages but said they were in touch with
the children's parents.
     Residents joined police in a house-to-house search of the area on
     The rising number of kidnappings is threatening efforts to stabilize
deeply impoverished Haiti two years after it's previous president was
driven into exile in a violent rebellion.
     About 100 kidnappings for ransom were reported last month and at least
60 have occurred so far this month, including that of a 6-year-old boy in
Port-au-Prince and murdered in the northern city of Cap Haitien.
     Haiti enjoyed a brief lull in violence after President Rene Preval won
elections in February. But crime is rising.