Haiti’s security forces were locked in a fierce gun battle on Wednesday with assailants who assassinated President Jovenel Moise at his home overnight, plunging the already impoverished, violence-wracked nation deeper into chaos.
The police had killed four of the “mercenaries” and captured two more, Police General Director Leon Charles said in televised comments late on Wednesday, adding that security forces would not rest until they had all been dealt with.
“We blocked them en route as they left the scene of the crime,” he said. “Since then, we have been battling with them.”
“They will be killed or apprehended.”
Moise, a 53-year-old former businessman who took office in 2017, was shot dead and his wife, Martine Moise, was seriously wounded when heavily armed assassins stormed the couple’s home in the hills above Port-au-Prince at around 1 a.m. local time (0500 GMT).
Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, told Reuters in an interview the gunmen were masquerading as U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents as they entered Moise’s guarded residence under cover of nightfall – a move that would likely have helped them gain entry.
The brazen assassination, which drew condemnation from the U.N. Security Council, the United States here and neighboring Latin American countries, came amid political unrest, a surge in gang violence, and a growing humanitarian crisis here in the poorest nation in the Americas.
The government declared a two-week state of emergency to help it hunt down the assassins, whom Edmond described as a group of “foreign mercenaries” and well-trained killers.
The gunmen spoke English and Spanish, said interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who assumed the leadership of the country, where the majority speak French or Haitian Creole.
“I am calling for calm. Everything is under control,” Joseph said on television alongside Police General Director Charles. “This barbaric act will not remain unpunished”.
The first lady had been airlifted to Florida for treatment where she was in a stable condition, Joseph said.
Haiti, a country of about 11 million people, has struggled to achieve stability since the fall of the Duvalier dynastic dictatorship in 1986, and has grappled with a series of coups and foreign interventions. Read More