Haiti police have killed four mercenaries who were allegedly involved in the assassination of the country’s President, Jovenel Moise, on July 7th. Two others were taken into custody. Police have not revealed the identity of the suspects, nor the reason for the assassination. According to police chief Leon Charles, some members of the squad evaded arrest.
“As I speak (late Wednesday), the police are engaged in battle with these assailants… We are chasing them so that either in the exchange of fire they will be killed or we will apprehend them,” the chief said. Three police officers who were being held hostage by the criminals were freed in an operation.
53-year-old President Moise was killed by gunmen who attacked his home in district Pelerin 5 at around 1 a.m. (0500 GMT). First Lady Martin Moise was injured during the attack, and has been hospitalized. Her condition is said to be stable but critical. She was initially taken to a local hospital before being rushed to the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami. The couple’s daughter, who was home during the attack, escaped harm by hiding in a bedroom.
According to Bocchit Edmond, Haitian ambassador to the United States, the assault was well orchestrated by “foreign mercenaries and professional killers,” reported Associated Press. The attackers masqueraded as agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which has an office in the capital to assist the government with drug-related crimes.
The perpetrators were heavily armed and spoke English or Spanish. Haiti has requested help from the U.S. government to investigate the matter. Edmond speculated that the assassins may have escaped to the Dominican Republic.
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Members of the UN Security Council condemned the attack, calling for perpetrators of “this abhorrent crime” to be swiftly brought to justice. They asked all parties “to remain calm” and “exercise restraint,” warning that any act “that could contribute to further instability” must be avoided.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a press briefing that no DEA agent was involved in the attack in any manner.
“The Haitian ambassador himself has dismissed these allegations. These reports are absolutely false. The United States condemns this heinous act. These false reports are nothing more than that, just false reports,” Price said. He added that Haitian authorities are investigating the matter, and that the United States “stand ready to offer assistance to that investigation.”
Earlier in the year, Price had called for an election in Haiti, proposing that it be scheduled later this year. The spokesperson stated that the United States has not changed its view.
“It is still the view of the United States that elections this year should proceed. We know that free and fair elections are the democratic path towards ending Haiti’s irregular and prolonged rule by decree and restoring its parliament, which as of now has lapsed. Free and fair presidential elections will facilitate a peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected president as well,” Price stated.
Former Haiti President Michel Martelly, who preceded Moise, said that the assassination was a “hard blow” to the county and its democracy. In a tweet, U.S. President Joe Biden said he was saddened to hear about the “horrific assassination,” and Washington stands by to assist Haiti.
Moise’s assassination has plunged Haiti into uncertainty. Opposition parties were against Moise’s rule, demanding that he step down because his term legally ended in February this year. Several protests were held against the ruling government, rejecting Moise’s plans to hold a constitutional referendum that would strengthen his presidency.
During his rule, Moise set up an intelligence agency that answered solely to him. He also passed a decree that restricted the power of a court that audited government contracts. The political turmoil is occurring at a time when Haiti is struggling with inflation and a rise in gang violence. Almost 60 percent of the population earns a daily wage of less than $2.
Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who assumed the post in April, said in a statement that the country’s security is “under the control of the National Police of Haiti and the Armed Forces of Haiti.” He assured citizens that “democracy and the republic will win.” The day before the president’s assassination, Moise had nominated neurosurgeon Ariel Henry as the new Prime Minister.
Speaking to AP, Joseph said that he spoke to Henry, and the two had decided that Joseph would remain in charge for now. Joseph pointed out that although Henry had been designated by Moise, he never took office. Meanwhile, Henry told the media outlet that “there is a bit of confusion” and that he is “the prime minister in office.”
Joseph has called for an international investigation into the matter. He reaffirmed that elections would take place later in the year as scheduled, and committed to working with Moise’s allies and opponents. Joseph said Moise was a “man of courage” who opposed some oligarchs, which was “not without consequences.”
In February, Moise had announced the arrest of 20 people who were attempting to kill him and overthrow the government. Among those arrested was a judge and an inspector general with the police.