A senior member of ousted President Jean Bertrand Aristide's party said he was released four days after he was kidnapped one of 30 people abducted during the last week in the increasingly violent country.
Emmanuel Cantave, leader of the Lavalas Family party, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he was held by armed gangs in the Cite Soleil slum on the northern outskirts of the capital. Cantave said his party and his family pooled a ransom of more than US$25,000 (Ђ21,000) to set him free on Tuesday. His release came as abductions surged in the capital, a month before national elections scheduled for Jan. 8.
"We registered 30 cases of kidnappings for the whole of November and 30 cases just for the first week of December," police spokesman Frantz Lerebours told reporters Wednesday.
Observers believe the real figures could be up to 10 times higher, since many families prefer not to report cases to police and to negotiate directly with kidnappers. Last week, 14 schoolchildren, a U.S. missionary and a Haitian journalist were among about two dozen people who were taken hostage and then released for ransom in the area.
Cite Soleil the country's largest slum, where about 200,000 people live in squalid conditions remains a hub for violence plaguing the capital. Well-armed gangs allegedly close to Aristide clash nearly daily with U.N. peacekeepers in armored vehicles.
The freshly released Cantave said gang members beat him and at one point threatened to kill him, criticizing the Lavalas party leadership's choice for the presidential elections.
Many grass root sections of Lavalas, such as those in Cite Soleil, have shown support for independent candidate Rene Preval against the official Lavalas candidate, Marc Bazin.
The U.N. force, which has pledged to secure Cite Soleil before national elections, has said it feared some gangs could try to disrupt elections. Meanwhile, police have filed a complaint with the United Nations, asking it to investigate the shooting of two uniformed Haitian police officers by peacekeepers near Cite Soleil on Monday, said police Inspector General Gessy Coicou. The U.N. has said it was investigating, reported AP. P.T.
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