UN: KIDNAPPERS RELEASE BELGIAN TAKEN IN HAITI
By MIKE MELIA (AP)
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Kidnappers have released a Belgian businessman who was grabbed as he drove through Haiti's capital, a U.N. police official said Friday.
Philippe Van Reybrouck, a longtime Haiti resident, had been in captivity for about 24 hours and was freed in good condition Thursday after a ransom was paid, said Michel Martin, the Canadian chief of the U.N.'s criminal intelligence unit in Haiti.
"The victim was released without any bodily harm," Martin said. "There was some stress and shock."
A lull in crime that followed Haiti's devastating Jan. 12 earthquake is giving way to signs of growing insecurity. Eight kidnappings have been reported so far this month, up from two in all of February, according to U.N. statistics.
Aid groups that flocked to Haiti following the quake imposed dusk curfews following the kidnapping earlier this month of two European aid workers for Doctors Without Borders. The two women were released after five days.
Haitian police have also been targeted, with at least four officers killed since the quake that allowed more than 5,000 prisoners to escape from collapsed or damaged jails.
Morgue records at the General Hospital show a dramatic increase in fatal shootings across Port-au-Prince since last month. But authorities say the situation is under control.
"It's too early to say that it's going to get worse," said Gary Desrosiers, a spokesman for Haiti's national police.
In the most recent kidnapping, assailants grabbed Van Reybrouck and contacted his family with a ransom demand. Martin said Haitian police were handling the investigation.
Once rare in Haiti, kidnappings soared in the chaos that followed the 2004 ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The bandits often targeted foreigners, but Haitians were taken in much larger numbers.
By the time of the earthquake, crackdowns by U.N. and Haitian police had dramatically curbed the number of kidnappings. The crime is still below pre-disaster levels. The eight kidnappings reported this month by the U.N. compare with 13 last March.
Some aid groups say desperation is to blame for the rising violence, with hundreds of thousands of Haitians still homeless more than two months after the quake.
"If we don't provide adequate shelter and food and sanitation for people and allow them to start focusing on their livelihoods, the security situation is going to worsen," said Joia Mukherjee, medical director for the nonprofit Partners in Health.