Port-au-Prince (AP) – Police say the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse is in the name of a foreign mercenary group.
The national police of the Caribbean state has taken 15 men from Colombia and two Americans who are believed to have committed the attack in the capital Port-au-Prince on Thursday evening (local time). Police Chief Léon Charles said eight other Colombians were still at large. Three alleged perpetrators were killed. Police had previously spoken of four dead assailants. It was unclear who ordered the assassination squad.
The 53-year-old president was attacked in his home on Wednesday evening and then shot. Moïse’s wife Martine was seriously injured. She is now being treated in the American city of Miami. According to the police, the killing squad consisted of 28 heavily armed men. The desperately poor Caribbean state is now even deeper in crisis. The background of the fact remains obscure.
The 17 arrested men were presented in handcuffs by the police. They sat on the floor. Some were visibly injured. On a table were things that would have been confiscated: several automatic weapons, machetes, sledgehammers, passports and mobile phones. Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano confirmed the participation of the citizens of his country. According to initial information, they were former soldiers, Molano said in a video.
According to a New York Times report, the two Americans said they had been hired as interpreters by a man named Mike. The real plan was to take Moise to the National Palace, not kill him. Haitian Ambassador to the US Bocchit Edmond said the attackers were posing as agents of the US drug agency DEA.
After the murder, eleven of the alleged perpetrators took refuge in the Taiwanese embassy. According to the diplomatic mission, the embassy then gave the green light for arrest. According to media reports, the men forcibly entered the embassy.
The attack leaves a power vacuum in the Caribbean country. Since parliamentary elections scheduled for October 2019 were canceled due to violent protests against Moïse, among others, there has been no functioning parliament there since January 2020. Moise has ruled by decree ever since. It wasn’t until shortly before his assassination that he appointed neurosurgeon Ariel Henry as interim prime minister on Monday.
Moïse, in office since 2017, was considered extremely unpopular. He was accused of corruption, ties to brutal gangs and autocratic tendencies. Over the past three years, protests have paralyzed Haiti time and again. Recently, bloody fighting between gangs for control of parts of the capital has displaced thousands of people. So far, presidential and parliamentary elections and a constitutional referendum are scheduled for September 26.