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29683: (news) Chamberlain: Haiti-Senator Kidnapped (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>


   PORT-AU-PRINCE, Dec 16 (AP) -- A Haitian senator was kidnapped by gunmen
while driving near a dangerous slum but escaped after several hours in
captivity, a U.N. official said Saturday.
   Sen. Andris Riche was seized Friday night along a highway through the
capital of Port-au-Prince, U.N. police spokesman Fred Blaise said.
   Blaise said the senator, a member of the opposition Organization for the
People's Struggle party, escaped early Saturday.
   The assault happened near the sprawling seaside slum of Cite Soleil, a
base for well-armed gangs blamed for a string of recent abductions.
Kidnappings for ransom have surged in the Caribbean nation since a 2004
revolt that toppled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
   Gunmen ambushed Riche's pickup truck as he and three companions returned
from a celebration marking the 200th anniversary of Haiti's Senate, Blaise
   Haitian broadcaster Radio Kiskeya reported the kidnappers initially
demanded a $200,000 ransom.
   Haiti experienced a lull in violence following the February election of
President Rene Preval, but abductions and killings have increased in recent
weeks. More than a dozen children were reported kidnapped this week alone,
prompting criticism that Preval's government and an 8,800-strong U.N.
peacekeeping force cannot secure the former French colony of 8 million.