PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP/WHDH) — Kidnappers in Haiti released a U.S. nurse and her daughter Wednesday, nearly two weeks after they were snatched at gunpoint from the campus of a Christian-run school near Port-au-Prince, underscoring the severe security risks for visitors to a capital city largely controlled by gangs.

The July 27 abduction of Alix Dorsainvil and her child happened the very day the U.S. State Department warned U.S. citizens to leave “as soon as possible” and ordered the departure of nonemergency U.S. government personnel from Haiti because of security concerns. The country remains under a U.S. “do not travel” advisory.

In the days following the kidnapping, El Roi Haiti, the Christian group founded by Dorsainvil’s husband, asked people to pray and said it was working on their safe return.

Hope waned among some. Gang warfare has increasingly plagued Haiti since the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Gang members regularly kill, rape and hold residents for ransom. Some are held for months. A local nonprofit has documented 539 kidnappings since January, a significant rise over previous years for the country of more than 11 million people.

On Wednesday, El Roi Haiti confirmed the New Hampshire mother and daughter’s safe release “with a heart of gratitude and immense joy.” The U.S. State Department issued a statement thanking its Haitian and U.S. interagency partners for facilitating the release. Neither gave any further details, including whether a ransom was paid.

“We have no greater priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas,” the department said. “As you can imagine, these individuals have been through a very difficult ordeal, both physically and mentally.”

“We knew that her family was reaching out to the authorities, and we can reach out to the State Department so that they can be in touch, on the ground in Haiti, and give this support to the organization as well as to her family – just make sure there’s that direct connection,” U.S. Representative Annie Kuster (D) told 7NEWS on Wednesday.

Kuster, along with other members of the New Hampshire federal delegation, worked to call attention to the case over the past two weeks, and said she was relieved to hear the two U.S. citizens are now safe.

“We’re just trying to be very careful to respect her privacy – we don’t in any way want to increase these abductions,” the congresswoman added.

In a brief conversation with The Associated Press, El Roi Haiti said it would comment further in coming days but asked for patience “as the community processes and heals.” The organization issued a statement asking that no one try to contact Dorsainvil and her family.

Meanwhile, Haitians living near the group’s campus erupted in relief and smiles when they heard the news.

“Thank you, God!” Fredline Valcourt said. “She’s our mother in the area. If we have any problems, we don’t need to go anywhere else. She would take care of us.”

Louitesse Desumer said she had gone to church to pray for their freedom. “We don’t want them to leave the country,” she said, as she raised her hands in thanks for the release.

The Christian group has offered medical care, education and other basic services to people in the country’s poorest areas.

In a blog post, El Roi Haiti said Dorsainvil fell in love with Haiti’s people on a visit there after the devastating 2010 earthquake hit the Caribbean nation. In a video posted on the organization’s website, Dorsainvil describes Haitians as “full of joy, and life and love,” people she was blessed to know.

Dorsainvil graduated from Regis College in Weston, Massachusetts, where a program supports nursing education in Haiti.

The college’s president, Antoinette Hays, said the community was relieved to hear of the safe release of Dorsainvil and her daughter. “We send our prayers and continued support to her family and friends as they begin the healing process from this experience.”

(Copyright (c) 2023 Sunbeam Television. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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