Six people, including one US citizen, have been arrested and seven reportedly killed as Haitian security forces pursued the gunmen responsible for the assassination of the Caribbean country’s president, Jovenel Moïse.
As Haiti reeling after the first assassination of a sitting president in the Americas since the shooting of John F. Kennedy in 1963, there were chaotic scenes in the capital, Port-au-Prince, on Thursday. Angry civilians reportedly detained two male suspects while police besieged two buildings in which other suspected killers were allegedly hiding.
“They killed the president! Give them to us. We are going to burn them! “The couple’s captors chanted as they handed the men over to police, according to the Associated Press.
Images posted on social media showed two scruffy men dragged through the streets of Port-au-Prince by locals, one with his hands tied behind his back with white shoelaces. Members of the crowd reportedly set fire to several bullet-riddled vehicles that they believed belonged to the suspects.
Haiti’s Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph called on citizens to hand over the suspects to the police instead of lynching them. “I am asking for calm. It’s all under control. This barbaric act will not go unpunished, ”Joseph said on television.
Haitian Police Chief Léon Charles told local radio that seven suspects had been shot to death and six arrested after Moïse’s murder. The masterminds were still being sought.
Helen La Lime, a veteran US diplomat who is a UN special envoy for Haiti, told reporters that she had been informed that “a larger group of possible perpetrators” had been surrounded by police after taking refuge in two buildings in Puerto The prince.
Speaking after an emergency meeting of the UN security council in New York, La Lime said that the prime minister of Haiti had told him that the presidential compound had been invaded by an English and Spanish-speaking “commando unit,” whose heavily armed members killed the president after posing as “A DEA force.”
“I don’t know who this command is,” La Lime added.
Haitian authorities described several of the suspects as “foreigners,” and the Washington Post named one of the six detainees as James Solages, a US citizen of Haitian descent. Robert Fatton, a professor of Haitian politics at the University of Virginia, said well-placed government sources had told him that other foreign nationals were involved. “From what I gather, they were Haitian-Americans or Americans,” Fatton said.
Moïse, a 53-year-old former banana exporter who took office in 2017, was killed at his family’s home in the hills above Port-au-Prince around 1 a.m. local time on Wednesday. The first lady, Martine Moïse, was also injured and evacuated to Miami, where she is reportedly in stable condition.
According to new details that have emerged in local reports, the attackers tied up the staff and one of Moïse’s three children survived by hiding in his brother’s bedroom.
Moïse was shot at least a dozen times and died at the scene, according to Carl Henry Destin, a judicial official, who said the president’s office and bedroom were ransacked. “We found him lying on his back, in blue pants, a white shirt stained with blood, his mouth open, his left eye gouged out,” Destin told Haiti’s leading newspaper Le Nouvelliste.
When the details of the daring raid emerged, Haiti was engulfed by deep political uncertainty and the streets of the capital were emptied as many residents chose to stay at home. “I really don’t know what to say … the insecurity is too much,” said Darline Garnier, a 23-year-old college student from Pétionville, near where the president was killed.
“It is a humiliation for our nation,” said Luckner Meronvil, a 46-year-old taxi driver, with tears in his eyes as he spoke.
Theories about who was behind the massacre ran wild in Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic, which shares the same island. Amid claims that some of those involved in the attack spoke Spanish, the Dominican newspaper Diario Libre reported that investigators were examining the possibility that some of the killers used the country to enter or flee Haiti.
And in the feverish atmosphere, competing, and as yet unverified, theories have continued to emerge, one of which suggests that a Colombian and Venezuelan assassin squad hired by powerful figures in Haiti involved in drug trafficking and other crimes had ordered the murder, or that the murder involved individuals linked to Moïse’s own security personnel.
Many people in Haiti had wanted Moïse to resign. Since taking office in 2017, he has faced calls to leave office and massive protests, first over allegations of corruption and his management of the economy, and then over his growing grip on power.
On Thursday, Haitians woke up to a country without a head of state, with a long-suspended parliament, two rival interim prime ministers, one of whom was due to be sworn in in the coming days, and a constitutional loophole following his death from coronavirus. . of the head of his supreme court.
That has created confusion as to who is the legitimate leader of the country of 11 million people: Joseph, who has assumed power for now, or Ariel Henry, who was appointed prime minister by Moïse just before his death and was due to take the oath. week. “All the cards are up in the air,” Fatton said of the apparent fight between Henry and Joseph.
Ryan Berg, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said: “I can imagine a scenario where there are issues regarding who the armed forces and national police are loyal to, in the event that there are competing claims to be president of country placeholder. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism