Connect with us

News

Gangs in Haiti try to seize control of main airport in newest attack on key government sites

Published

on

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Heavily armed gangs tried to seize control of Haiti’s main international airport on Monday, exchanging gunfire with police and soldiers in the latest attack on key government sites in an explosion of violence that includes a mass escape from the country’s prisons.

The Toussaint Louverture International Airport was closed when the attack occurred, with no planes operating and no passengers on site.

US CITIZENS TOLD TO LEAVE HAITI AFTER JAILBREAK, STATE OF EMERGENCY ISSUED

Associated Press journalists saw an armored truck on the tarmac shooting at gangs to try and prevent them from entering airport grounds as scores of employees and other workers fled from whizzing bullets.

It is the biggest attack on the airport in Haiti’s history.

Last week, the airport was struck briefly by bullets amid ongoing gang attacks, but gangs did not enter the airport nor seize control of it.

Advertisement

The attack occurred just hours after authorities in Haiti ordered a nighttime curfew following violence in which armed gang members overran the two biggest prisons and freed thousands of inmates over the weekend.

Soldiers guard the entrance of the international airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, March 4, 2024. Authorities ordered a 72-hour state of emergency starting Sunday night following violence in which armed gang members overran the two biggest prisons and freed thousands of inmates over the weekend. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

A 72-hour state of emergency began Sunday night. The government said it would try to track down the escaped inmates, including from a penitentiary were the vast majority were in pre-trial detention, with some accused of slayings, kidnappings and other crimes.

“The police were ordered to use all legal means at their disposal to enforce the curfew and apprehend all offenders,” said a statement from Finance Minister Patrick Boivert, the acting prime minister.

Gangs already were estimated to control up to 80% of Port-au-Prince, the capital. They are increasingly coordinating their actions and choosing once unthinkable targets like the Central Bank.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry traveled abroad last week to try to salvage support for a United Nations-backed security force to help stabilize Haiti in its conflict with the increasingly powerful crime groups.

Haiti’s National Police has roughly 9,000 officers to provide security for more than 11 million people, according to the U.N. They are routinely overwhelmed and outgunned.

Advertisement

The deadly weekend marked a new low in Haiti’s downward spiral of violence. At least nine people had been killed since Thursday — four of them police officers — as gangs stepped up coordinated attacks on state institutions in Port-au-Prince, including the international airport and national soccer stadium.

But the attack on the National Penitentiary late Saturday shocked Haitians who are accustomed to living under the constant threat of violence.

Almost all of the estimated 4,000 inmates escaped. Three bodies with gunshot wounds lay at the prison entrance Sunday.

In another neighborhood, the bloodied corpses of two men with their hands tied behind the backs lay face down as residents walked past roadblocks set up with burning tires.

Among the few dozen people who chose to stay in prison are 18 former Colombian soldiers accused of working as mercenaries in the July 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse.

“Please, please help us,” one of the men, Francisco Uribe, said in a message widely shared on social media. “They are massacring people indiscriminately inside the cells.”

Colombia’s foreign ministry has called on Haiti to provide “special protection” for the men.

Advertisement

A second Port-au-Prince prison containing around 1,400 inmates also was overrun.

Gunfire was reported in several neighborhoods in the capital. Internet service for many residents was down as Haiti’s top mobile network said a fiber optic cable connection was slashed during the rampage.

After gangs opened fire at Haiti’s international airport last week, the U.S. Embassy said it was halting all official travel to the country. On Sunday night, it urged all American citizens to depart as soon as possible.

The Biden administration, which has refused to commit troops to any multinational force for Haiti while offering money and logistical support, said it was monitoring the rapidly deteriorating security situation with grave concern.

The surge in attacks follows violent protests that turned deadlier in recent days as the prime minister went to Kenya seeking to move ahead on the proposed U.N.-backed security mission to be led by that East African country.

Henry took over as prime minister following Moise’s assassination and has postponed plans to hold parliamentary and presidential elections, which haven’t happened in almost a decade.

Advertisement

Jimmy Chérizier, a former elite police officer known as Barbecue who now runs a gang federation, has claimed responsibility for the surge in attacks. He said the goal is to capture Haiti’s police chief and government ministers and prevent Henry’s return.

The prime minister, a neurosurgeon, has shrugged off calls for him to resign and didn’t comment when asked if he felt it was safe to come home.

Source: Fox News

Follow us on Google News to get the latest Updates

Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending