Port-au-Prince — Gang members on the outskirts of the Haitian capital stopped a bus arriving from the Dominican Republic and kidnapped more than two dozen passengers, Dominican new outlets said Thursday. Haitian police said they couldn’t confirm how many of the 37 passengers were taken hostage, the owner of the bus line, Roosevelt Jean-Francois, told Haitian media, but Dominican newspapers quoted the neighboring country’s defense ministry as saying the driver had made it back across the border with a harrowing story of how he and a handful of others escaped from the gang.
Gunmen intercepted the bus from the Capital Coach Line on Wednesday at around 2:30 p.m. local time, a Haitian national police official told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
Law enforcement officials said they recovered at least seven people who were on board the bus, as well as the vehicle. But the driver was taken by the bandits.
A bus line attendant was injured in the attack, Jean-Francois said. That information largely corroborated the version of events reported by Dominican newspaper Listin Diario, which cited the country’s Ministry of Defense as saying Thursday that the driver was received at a border crossing earlier in the day.
The driver, identified as 32-year-old Johan Antonio de la Rosa, reportedly told authorities that he, a female conductor and passengers were forced into another vehicle by the gang. According to the account attributed to the defense ministry, that vehicle ran out of gas, and de la Rosa, the conductor and a handful of Haitian passengers used the opportunity to flee.
The two employees made it to an office of the bus company in Haiti, said Listin Diario, before the driver was brought to the border crossing to return home.
The female conductor was shot during the escape, according to the account, which has not been confirmed by Haitian officials. She was given emergency treatment by first responders and later transferred to a hospital in chaos-wracked Haiti for treatment. Her condition was not clear on Friday.
Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported that a total of nine people escaped from the kidnappers, but it was unclear whether any of the passengers who got away were still free on Friday. Nor was there any further information on the fate of the more than two dozen passengers apparently captured by the gang.
Powerful criminal gangs have taken to plundering cargo convoys and seizing hostages on the route between Port-au-Prince and the Dominican border in recent years.
In May 2022, a bus belonging to another company operating between Santo Domingo and Port-au-Prince was hijacked by members of a gang. Gunmen held passengers captive, including eight young Turkish citizens, who were released after more than a month in captivity.
The assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021 has left the country to descend rapidly into a complete security void, with gangs controlling huge swathes of territory, including in the capital Port-au-Prince, and the government seemingly powerless to respond.
The de-facto president, Ariel Henry, is serving with no formal mandate as the security situation has made it impossible to hold long-overdue elections, leaving virtually no sitting lawmakers in nation’s congress.
“It’s a collapse,” Patrice Dumont, one of 10 senators who departed from their offices this month upon the end of their congressional mandate, told NPR this week.