At least a dozen dead as gang violence spills into wealthy areas of Haiti capital

Gunmen have assaulted two upscale neighborhoods in Haiti’s capital in an attack that left at least a dozen people dead in surrounding areas and suggested that a gang insurrection that prompted the prime minister to resign is far from over.

Assailants looted homes in the communities of Laboule and Thomassin before sunrise on Monday, forcing residents to flee as some called radio stations pleading for police. Both neighborhoods had previously remained largely peaceful, despite a surge in gang attacks across Port-au-Prince that began on February 29.

Afterwards, the bodies of at least 12 men lay strewn on the streets of nearby Pétion-Ville.

One was lying face up on the street, surrounded by a scattered deck of cards and another found face down inside a pick-up truck known as a “tap-tap” that operates as a taxi. A woman at one of the scenes collapsed and had to be held by others after learning that a relative of hers was killed.

“Abuse! This is abuse!” cried out one man who stood nearby. “People of Haiti! Wake up!”

The attacks raised concerns that the violence would not cease despite the announcement by the prime minister, Ariel Henry, last week that he would resign once a transitional presidential council was created, a move that gangs had been demanding.

The council has yet to be appointed, as political coalitions jockey for power, and one faction rejected the plan outright.

Gangs have long opposed Henry, saying he was never elected by the people as they blame him for deepening poverty, but the armed groups have themselves been accused of trying to seize power for themselves or for unidentified Haitian politicians.

Meanwhile, the capital has been paralyzed as fresh attacks broke out late last week, including a fire at the main prison that days earlier had been emptied of prisoners and the residence of the national police chief.

On Monday, Haiti’s power company announced that four substations in the capital and elsewhere “were destroyed and rendered completely dysfunctional.” As a result, swaths of Port-au-Prince were without power, including the Cité Soleil slum, the Croix-des-Bouquets community, and a hospital.

The company said criminals also seized important documents, cables, inverters, batteries, and other items. Meanwhile, the deployment of a UN-backed Kenyan police force to fight gangs in Haiti has been delayed, with the east African country saying it would wait until the transitional council is established.

In an effort to curb the relentless violence, Haiti’s government announced on Sunday that it was extending a night-time curfew through 20 March.

Also on Sunday, a government-chartered flight carrying more than 30 US citizens fleeing the violence landed in Miami after the US embassy in Port-au-Prince earlier this month urged US citizens to leave “as soon as possible.”

(The Guardian)

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