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Two kidnapped missionaries who were held captive for 72 hours in Haiti have been freed and reunited with their families.
“My daughter is safe!” Mitch Pearse posted on Facebook Wednesday afternoon. “We are all okay!”
Pearse’s daughter Rachel was among the 10 people seized after church services at a Haitian church.
Three people were killed in a stand-off with police and armed guards during their dramatic rescue on Monday, according to Haiti’s Prime Minister Jean-Henry Ceant.
The hostages, three American men and six women, were held at a home and it’s not clear how long they were being held.
Relatives had called the mission home
The hostages were in the company of Pastor Rick Ridgeway of Bethany Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama.
Ridgeway was found dead after the crisis, but two escaped after sustaining gunshot wounds, Ceant said in a news conference Monday.
Ridgeway founded the Bethany Baptist Church in Huntsville 25 years ago, according to the church’s website.
The pastor’s brother-in-law, Ray Browning, said Ridgeway was an “accomplished and beloved” leader of the church who had been working in Haiti for 18 years.
Browning said the 41-year-old minister helped build a number of residential shelters in the area and traveled the world sharing his faith with people.
“Rick was just a guy that everyone loved. There was no question in anyone’s mind that he would defend his people, his neighbors and his faith,” Browning told CNN on Tuesday.
Mike Apis, Ridgeway’s partner in helping his sister start the work in Haiti, said Ridgeway and other American missionaries played a key role in helping Haiti get off of the poverty track.
“Rick was always well-liked and trusted. Most of us, these days, are very unsure of ourselves in those leadership roles. So, Rick’s example was always a model of hope and desire to help those in need. Everyone could identify with that,” Apis said.
The local authority’s offer was rescinded
The community mobilized to rescue the hostages after learning they had been kidnapped, authorities said.
As authorities worked to locate the kidnappers, they received a call on Sunday from the mission seeking assistance.
On Monday, negotiations with the kidnappers and local authority broke down and the nine escaped while the pastor was being moved. It is unclear if the other hostage was able to flee.
During a tense standoff, the nine hostages were moved between several locations across a suburban neighborhood while dozens of armed members of the group’s local community launched their own rescue operation.
The United States Embassy in Haiti was told by the hostages’ captors that a soldier held hostage by the kidnappers was expecting to be released, State Department officials said.
The National Park Service, which is in charge of protecting the Cabaret-Maria Maison neighborhood, said the search for that soldier had been halted after the announcement was made.
Senior Haitian police officials had said the man was a soldier stationed in the area.
Pearse, along with five other Bethany Baptist Church members, was abducted during church services at the Haitian mission last week. Their families held protests for days before the release.