Haiti police hunt down president’s assassins as uncertainty grows – News Vibe24

    Haiti police hunt down president's assassins as uncertainty grows - Times of India
    PORT-au-PRINCE: Haitian police killed four “mercenaries” who said they were behind the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on Wednesday and took two more into custody as the poor and Caribbean hit fell into uncertainty.
    Police did not identify the suspects or what motivated the gun attack on Moise and his wife Martine, who survived, at their private home in the capital Port-au-Prince early Wednesday morning.
    As the UN Security Council convened for an emergency meeting scheduled for Thursday afternoon, caretaker Prime Minister Claude Joseph declared a national “state of siege” and said he was now in charge of the country.
    The airport was closed to Port-au-Prince, but witnesses said the city was quiet with deserted roads and no additional security forces on patrol.
    Police said late Wednesday that they were combing the city from the attack.
    “Four mercenaries were killed, two were under our control. Three police officers were taken hostage,” said Leon Charles, director general of the Haitian National Police.
    The bomber struck shortly after 1 a.m. (0500 GMT) at Moise’s house. A shell casing could be seen off the road as forensic experts combed the scene for evidence, and a nearby car was filled with bullet holes with a shattered window.
    Moise’s wife was first treated at a local hospital and then airlifted to the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami.
    Joseph said she was “out of danger”, adding later that “her condition is stable”.
    He said the president was “murdered in his home by foreigners who spoke English and Spanish”.
    “This death will not go unpunished,” Joseph said in a speech to the nation.
    Haiti’s ambassador to Washington, Bockit Edmond, said the killers were “professional” mercenaries disguised as US agents.
    “We have a video and we think they are mercenaries,” he said.
    Moise had ruled Haiti, America’s poorest country, by decree after the 2018 legislative elections were delayed.
    In addition to political chaos, ransom kidnappings have increased in recent months, reflecting the growing influence of armed gangs in the country.
    Haiti is also facing chronic poverty and recurring natural disasters.
    The streets of the capital were idle in the hours after the murder, with few citizens expressing fear and distrust.
    “We did not expect it. It is another earthquake in Haiti,” said a mother of two who gave her name only as Bernadette, referring to the catastrophe that devastated the country in 2010.
    “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it,” said Jacquelyn, 50.
    The country will watch two weeks of national mourning from Thursday.
    The president had faced sharp opposition from sections of the population who deemed his mandate illegal and ordered seven prime ministers in four years.
    Joseph – who spoke by telephone to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday – had been in office for only three months and was due to step down within days of Moise naming his deputy on Monday.
    In addition to the presidential, legislative and local elections, Haiti was due to hold a constitutional referendum in September after being postponed twice due to a coronavirus pandemic.
    US President Joe Biden condemned the killing as “horrific” and said Washington was ready to help in any way it could.
    “We condemn this heinous act and send my sincere wishes for the recovery of First Lady Moise,” Biden said.
    Washington has also called on Haiti to go ahead with the election, with State Department spokesman Ned Pace saying a fair vote would facilitate a peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected president.
    UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on Haitians to “remain united” and “reject all violence”.
    European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has warned of a “risk of instability and a spiral of violence”.
    Moise – a 53-year-old former businessman from the north of the island – broke out on the political scene in 2017 with a message of reconstruction, campaigned for populist commitments and was sworn in in February 2017.
    The expiration date of his term became the source of a tense controversy.
    Moise claimed that his term lasted until February 7, 2022, but others claimed that he ended on February 7, 2021.
    The controversy is due to the fact that Moise was elected in a 2015 vote that was canceled for fraud and then re-elected in November 2016.
    Without a parliament, the country plunged further into crisis in 2020, leading Moise to rule by decree, fueling growing distrust of him.
    Although calm was maintained for several hours after the assassination, many feared that Haiti would resort to violence.
    “How much worse can hell get?” asked Haitian expert Irwin Stotzky, a law professor at the University of Miami.
    “Haiti is facing even more violence and death and failure as a democratic nation than ever before, something that is hard to imagine given its recent and chaotic history.”
    The assassination comes just days after Moise appointed Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon who studied in France, as Haiti’s new prime minister.
    Henry, 71, is close to the opposition, but his appointment was not accepted by a majority of opposition parties, which have continued to demand the president’s resignation.
    The Dominican Republic has ordered the immediate closure of its border with neighboring Haiti following the assassination.


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