Image source, AFP via Getty ImagesImage caption, Gangs have recently extended their hold across Port-au-Prince

As many as 17 American Christian missionaries and their families, including children, have reportedly been kidnapped by gang members in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince.

The kidnapping happened as the missionaries were leaving an orphanage, the New York Times reports.

The group are being held by the armed gang, a local security source told the AFP news agency.

The US government is yet to provide any information on the incident.

Armed gangs have controlled the poorest districts of the Haitian capital for years. Recently they have extended their hold to other parts of Port-au-Prince and its outlying areas, which has led to a huge rise in kidnappings.

More than 600 kidnappings were recorded in the first three quarters of 2021, compared with 231 over the same period last year, according to the Centre for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, a civil society group based in Port-au-Prince.

Violence has spiralled in Haiti – the poorest country in the Americas – after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July and an earthquake in August which killed more than 2,000 people.