American YouTuber Freed After Kidnapping in Haiti


An American YouTube personality who was kidnapped two weeks ago by a gang leader in Haiti was released over the weekend and was on his way home to the United States on Monday morning, according to his father.

The American, Adisson Pierre Maalouf, 26, had traveled to Haiti from the neighboring Dominican Republic to interview Jimmy Chérizier, a former police officer and gang leader known as Barbecue, according to Mr. Maalouf’s family, who spoke to The New York Times after his release.

Kidnapped with him was Mr. Maalouf’s guide, Jean Sacra Sean Roubens, a Haitian journalist. Mr. Roubens confirmed to The Times that he had also been released.

Mr. Maalouf said on social media that he had been abducted by a rival gang leader and held in a “concrete shack surrounded by barbed wire” in a remote location.

“Can’t give any more detail till I’m home, but all I will say for now is — Glory be to God,” he said.

Mr. Chérizier could not be reached for comment, and there is no evidence that he was involved in the abductions.

Mr. Maalouf, a Lebanese American from Georgia, calls himself “Arab” on his social media platforms. He was kidnapped on March 14 near the airport in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, his father, Pierre Maalouf, told The Times.

“He enjoys doing interviews with bad people, let’s put it that way,” Pierre Maalouf said.

In a video posted on social media on Saturday morning, shortly before Adisson Pierre Maalouf’s release, he and Mr. Roubens are seen sitting on a sofa and exchanging hugs with Joseph Wilson, a gang leader known in Haitian Creole as Lanmò Sanjou, or Death Can Come Any Day.

In the video, Mr. Wilson said that the two men had been well treated, despite being held against their will. He could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Wilson is wanted in the United States in connection with the kidnapping of 16 Christian missionaries and their children, who were held for ransom in 2021. He was indicted in 2022 on 16 counts of hostage taking, and the U.S. government has offered a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest.

Mr. Roubens, the guide, said in an interview that he and Mr. Maalouf were held at gunpoint by armed men and forced to record videos with Mr. Wilson, pretending “to act friendly with him.”

“That was the only way to get out of that situation,” he added.

Mr. Roubens, an experienced fixer for YouTube personalities and foreign journalists seeking to report on Haiti’s criminal groups, said he was traumatized and vowed to stay away from the gangs in the future. “I will not go to the red zone any longer, I am done with it,” he said, adding that he regretted putting his family through “the pain they had to go through during the time I was away.”

Pierre Maalouf, 60, said his family was in touch with his son throughout the ordeal and were confident that he would be released unharmed.

“I knew that he was safe,” Pierre Maalouf said, adding that gangs in Haiti use kidnapping as a source of money and do not hurt their victims if they are paid a ransom. “They want to negotiate business. They get what they want, and that’s basically it.”

He added that the family had paid a ransom to free his son.

A representative for the State Department said the organization was “aware of reports of the kidnapping of a U.S. citizen in Haiti” but gave no further details.

The State Department is advising Americans against travel to Haiti, citing widespread violence and kidnappings. The United States and other governments have evacuated hundreds of people from Haiti in recent weeks.

The abductions of Mr. Maalouf and Mr. Roubens were the latest high-profile acts in Haiti by armed groups, which last year were blamed for at least 3,000 kidnappings, according to the United Nations.

Security in Haiti has deteriorated into a “cataclysmic situation,” the U.N. reported on Thursday. Increasing levels of gang violence against Haitians, combined with corruption, a sense of impunity and poor political governance, have brought the Caribbean nation’s state institutions “close to collapse,” the agency said.

The U.N. Human Rights Office reported that gang violence this year had left 1,554 people dead and 826 others injured as of March 22. “The recent escalation of violence has heightened human rights abuses, including killings, kidnappings and rapes, especially against women and young girls,” it said.

Mr. Maalouf, a self-described “video creator, traveler, comedian, storyteller,” has posted videos about his visits with armed groups around the globe, including in Brazil, Mexico and the Middle East. His YouTube channel has 1.4 million followers.

“I’m Arab. I spent my time exploring the globe’s most dangerous and undocumented places; riding the line of death is where I feel most alive,” he said in a recent post.

On March 10, he wrote on the social media platform X, “Going on another one of those trips.” He added: “If I die, thanks for watching what I’ve put out. If I live, all glory to God.”

His father said his son spent most of his time traveling to dangerous places.

“He was expecting that this would happen one day, and he told me ‘Don’t worry. I know how to deal with them,’” Pierre Maalouf said.

He said that his son told him on the phone that he was being well treated. “He did not have his freedom,” he said. “He did not have his phone. But he was treated different than the other ones.”

The family did not disclose the amount of the ransom, but a security official familiar with the case told The Times that they paid less than what the gang had demanded. The group backed down after pressure from Mr. Chérizier, the other gang leader, who was upset by news coverage of the case, Mr. Maalouf’s father said.



David C. Adams and Andre Paultre – [source]

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