PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Gunmen abducted 10 children after hijacking a school bus and another car Wednesday in brazen daylight assaults, according to local media reports.
Haitian police spokesman Frantz Lerebours confirmed that several students were kidnapped, but said he did not know exactly how many had been taken. Police were searching for the captors, he said.
Haitian broadcaster Radio Kiskeya reported at least six students were riding to school in a private bus when several armed men stopped the vehicle, forced their way aboard and ordered the driver to speed off to an unknown location.
Around the same time, armed men stopped a red Isuzu Trooper carrying four children and two adults, Kiskeya said. The gunmen forced the adults out of the car and fled with the children.
Both kidnappings happened in La Plaine, a northern suburb of Port-au-Prince that has become a base for armed gangs blamed for a wave of kidnappings. It was unclear if the two incidents were related.
Kidnappings for ransom have become the top security threat in the impoverished Caribbean nation of 8 million, with children emerging as a new target. About 10 children have been reported snatched since November, including two who were killed by their captors.
On Monday, two gunmen riding motorcycles pulled a 7-year-old girl from a car and shot her father several times after a struggle in Port-au-Prince's downtown district. The girl remained captive Wednesday and her father was in stable condition.
Authorities blame the crimes on well-armed street gangs that flourished after a 2004 rebellion overthrew former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.