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Mystery swirls around Haiti leader's murder
Publicado: 09/07/2021

Mystery swirls around Haiti leader's murder

Port-au-Prince (AFP) -

A 28-member hit squad made up of Colombians and Americans murdered President Jovenel Moise, Haitian police say, but little is known about who masterminded the assassination and their motives as the investigation pressed on Friday.

Seventeen suspected assailants in Wednesday's pre-dawn attack have been arrested, including 15 Colombians and two Americans of Haitian origin, the country's police said Thursday at a press conference.

Three Colombian gunmen were killed by police, while eight members of the hit squad are at large, Haiti's police chief Leon Charles said, though the figures differed slightly from other official sources.

But little has been revealed on why gunmen broke into the president's personal residence, riddling him with bullets and wounding his wife, Martine.

Authorities have caught the perpetrators of the attack, Leon said, but are now looking for the masterminds.

Police paraded some of the suspects before the media Thursday, along with Colombian passports and weapons they had seized.

At least six suspected members of the hit squad appear to be former Colombian soldiers, said Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano.

According to Interpol, the ex-military men were two retired non-commissioned army officers and four former soldiers, said General Jorge Vargas, national police director. Two were among those killed by the Haitian police.

Colombian President Ivan Duque assured interim Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph 'the collaboration of his country in advancing the investigation.'

Colombian media reports on Friday said four of the former military suspects left Bogota on June 4 for Haiti's neighbor the Dominican Republic, crossing the border on June 6.

Taiwan confirmed late Thursday that 11 of the suspects were arrested on its embassy grounds, after security discovered a group of armed men had broken into the courtyard of the property that had been shuttered 'for safety reasons' after Moise's murder.

The US State Department, without confirming the arrest of any American nationals, has indicated it will help the Haitian investigation.

The United States will help with the investigation by sending senior FBI and other officials as soon as possible, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Friday.

- 'We need to know' -

After days of paralysis in the capital, Port-au-Prince saw the timid return of people to the streets, shops opening and the resumption of public transport on Friday morning.

People scrambled to stock up on basic necessities at supermarkets in anticipation of more days of instability.

Gang violence, rife in the Caribbean nation, also picked up again on Friday, with clashes between groups paralyzing traffic on a major highway.

The city's airport, shuttered in the wake of the attack, is expected to re-open Friday.

But questions continued to swirl in the country over who killed the president and why.

'Foreigners came to the country to perpetrate this crime. We, Haitians, are appalled,' a resident of the capital told AFP.

'We need to know who is behind this, their names, their backgrounds so that justice can be served,' he added.

Senior police officers, directly responsible for the security of the Haitian president, are in the hot seat and have been summoned to appear before the courts, said Port-au-Prince government commissioner Bed-Ford Claude on Thursday.

'If you are responsible for the security of the president, where were you? What did you do to avoid this fate for the president?' Claude said.

Others have speculated on the possible involvement of security agents in the killing, adding to the confusion.

'The president of the Republic, Jovenel Moise, was assassinated by his security agents,' former Haitian senator Steven Benoit said on Magik9 radio Friday.

'It is not Colombians who killed him. They were contracted by the Haitian state.'

- Political chaos -

The attack has further destabilized the poorest country in the Americas, plagued by insecurity.

Two men are now vying to lead the country of 11 million people, more than half of whom are under age 20. There is no working parliament now.

One of Moise's last acts as president was to appoint on Monday a new prime minister, Ariel Henry. He had not taken office when Moise was killed.

Several hours after the assassination, Henry's predecessor, interim premier Claude Joseph, declared a national 'state of siege' for fifteen days and said he was now in charge.

While the opposition has accused Joseph of power-grabbing, the United Nations envoy to Haiti, Helen La Lime, has said he had authority because Henry had not been sworn in.

The country was already in the midst of in an institutional crisis: Moise had not organized an election since he came to power in early 2017 and as the country has had no parliament since January 2020, Moise had been ruling by decree.

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