PANAMA CITY, Panama (AFP) — Belize’s national football team was briefly held up by assault rifle-toting insurgents in Haiti on Monday, the country’s football federation said.

The central American country’s team — known as the Jaguars — is currently in Haiti for a World Cup 2022 qualifier in the capital Port-Au-Prince on March 25.

They were headed to their hotel from the airport when they were stopped by the armed gang, the Football Federation of Belize (FFB) said on Facebook.

“Despite the four-man police escort, the team bus was stopped by… insurgents on motorcycles,” they said, adding that their escorts had then negotiated with the gang for the team’s release.

“We are pleased to report that our Jaguars, although shaken by their terrible experience, are safely at their hotel.”

The FFB is currently in contact with Fifa and regional football federation Concacaf “to get them to safer territory”, they added.

“It was a moment of intense fear,” Belize’s co-captain Deon McCauley said.

Haiti is currently in the midst of an economic and political crisis and has been under a state of emergency since March 18.

Criminal networks exercise total control over several poor and densely populated neighbourhoods of the country’s capital, creating “no-go” zones where they hold kidnap victims.

Haiti has seen a surge in kidnappings for ransom in recent months, targeting both the wealthy and those of far more modest means.

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