Last of group of 10 Catholic hostages, including two French nationals, freed in Haiti


PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - The last six of 10 hostages who were kidnapped in Haiti earlier this month were released on Friday, including four Catholic priests and two French citizens, according to a senior church leader of the Caribbean nation.

The group of 10, five priests and two nuns among them, were initially taken at gunpoint from the commune of Croix-des-Bouquets, northeast of the capital Port-au-Prince, on April 11.

It wasn't immediately clear whether any ransom was paid to secure the latest hostage release.

In a statement, the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Max Leroy Mesidor, welcomed the release of the final group that remained captive.

"It is a relief for the whole church, a relief for society," he said.

The six were described as "stable" but "physically weak" due to lack of proper meals over the past three weeks, the Rev. Gilbert Peltrop of the Haitian Conference of Religious, or CHR, told Reuters.

"We are happy but my joy is mixed," he said, citing many others still held hostage by Haitian gangs as well as the lack of any arrests by police in the latest case.

Local media had reported that the kidnapping of the Catholic priests and nuns was carried out by the notorious "400 Mawozo" gang, which according to Haitian news agency Juno7 had demanded a ransom of $1 million.

Peltrop said that he doubted that the impoverished nation's Catholic Church paid any ransom.

(Reporting by Andre Paultre; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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