Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince in chaos as armed gangs kill police, vow to oust prime minister

Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince in chaos as armed gangs kill police, vow to oust prime minister

Port au Prince — Gunfights in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on Thursday left four policemen dead as a prominent gang leader said a coordinated attack by armed groups was underway to oust Prime Minister Ariel Henry. Gunfire rang out across the city as authorities battled attackers who targeted police stations, including two that were set on fire, as well as a police academy and Toussaint-Louverture International Airport.

“Today we announce that all armed groups will act to force Prime Minister Ariel Henry to step down,” gang leader Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherisier said in a video posted on social media before the attacks began.

“We will use all strategies to achieve this goal,” he said. “We take responsibility for everything that is happening on the streets right now.

Police are seen during an anti-gang operation in the Portail neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, February 29, 2024.

Odelin Joseph/AP

A police union representative told AFP that in addition to the four officers killed, five were injured.

armed gangs have taken over entire parts of the country in recent years unleashing brutal violence that has left Haiti’s economy and public health system in tatters.

At the same time, the Caribbean nation has been gripped by widespread civil and political unrest, with thousands taking to the streets in recent weeks to demand Henry step down after he refused to do so as planned.

According to a political deal reached after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021, Haiti was supposed to hold elections and Henry to cede power to newly elected officials by February 7 of that year, but that didn’t happen.

Henry is currently in Kenya moving to head a a multinational mission sanctioned by the United Nations The Security Council will help the Haitian police regain control of the country.

The international force – called the Multinational Security Support Mission, or “MSS” – is being sent at the request of the Haitian government and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. It will be tasked with protecting hospitals, schools, airports, ports and traffic intersections alongside the Haitian National Police.

Schools, universities and businesses in Haiti shut down as unrest escalated on Thursday. At one point, students from the State University of Haiti were briefly taken hostage before being released, a dean told AFP. At least one student was shot and wounded in the fighting, he added.

People flee their homes as police clash with armed gangs after notorious gang leader Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherisier called for the government of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry to be overthrown in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, February 29, 2024 Mr.

Ralph Teddy Errol/REUTERS

Multiple airlines canceled domestic and international flights after planes and an airport terminal were fired upon.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday that in addition to restoring security, a solution to Haiti’s years of political turmoil is needed.

“You can put as many police forces as possible in Haiti (but) if there is no political solution, the problem will not be solved,” he told the Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines before the Community of Latin America and Caribbean Summit.

Prime Minister Henry on Wednesday agreed to “share power” with the opposition until new elections are held, although no date has been set.

Five countries have said they want to join the Kenyan-led multinational police mission, including the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Benin and Chad.

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