updated 5/22/2008 6:29:20 PM ET 2008-05-22T22:29:20

Haitian and U.N. police were searching Thursday for a Canadian medical aid worker who was kidnapped in the hills above the Caribbean nation's capital.

Nadia Lefebvre was seized early Wednesday, said U.N. police spokesman Fred Blaise. The 32-year-old is on a short-term assignment in Haiti for the Paris-based medical organization Medecins du Monde, also known as Doctors of the World.

A spokeswoman for the group declined to comment.

The upscale Tomasin neighborhood where Lefebvre was captured is home to many foreigners and upper-class Haitians, and officials say they are monitoring a kidnapping network that has been working in the area for months.

Lefebvre's is the 20th confirmed kidnapping in Haiti this month. At least 139 people have been kidnapped nationwide in 2008 — 10 percent more than during the first five months of last year, Blaise said. Most kidnappings occurred in the capital.

The increase in kidnappings-for-ransom is likely linked to strengthening gang activity, Blaise said, and not desperation over the rising cost of living, which sparked deadly riots that toppled the prime minister in April.

Reports that a ransom has been demanded for Lefebvre could not be confirmed independently.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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