Haiti police kill four after Jovenel Moise assassination

Published : July 08, 2021 18:40 IST

Police stand near a mural featuring Haitian President Jovenel Moise, near the leader's Äôs residence where he was killed by gunmen in the early morning hours in Port-au-Prince on July 7. Photo: AP / PTI

Haiti's police chief says four suspects were killed in a shootout and two are in custody. The UN has warned against any further escalation to the violence.

Police in Haiti announced late Wednesday that four "mercenaries" were killed in a gun battle that followed the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. Three police officers were temporarily taken hostage in the battle that followed the death of the late President, police chief Leon Charles announced during a television broadcast. He added that officers were still searching for further suspects. "We are chasing them so that either in the exchange of fire they will be killed or we will apprehend them."

What we know about the assassination of Jovenel Moise

Moise was shot dead in his home by a "well-coordinated" and "highly trained and heavily armed" commando group, according to the Haitain Embassy in Washington. Moise's wife Martine was flown by helicopter to Miami for treatment.

Magistrate Carl Henry Destin told the Nouvelliste newspaper that Moise's body had been hit twelve times in the head, chest, hips and abdomen by shots fired from large caliber rifles and smaller 9mm pistols. "The president's office and bedroom were ransacked. We found him lying on his back, blue pants, a white shirt smeared with blood, his mouth open, his left eye gouged out," Destin said. He added Moise's daughter Jomarlie was home when the assassination occurred but managed to hide in a bedroom. Two domestic staff members were tied up.

Local media reported Moise's killers were disguised as US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, shouting "DEA operation" upon entry. AFP reported the assailants spoke English and Spanish.

International reactions to the assassination

In Washington, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said reports of DEA involvement were "absolutely false". US President Joe Biden condemned the "heinous" act and offered his "sincere wishes for First Lady Moise's recovery," as well as support to Haiti.

Foreign Minister Claude Joseph, who has declared his role as interim prime minister, and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken both announced they had spoken. Joseph said he promised to engage in dialogue with opposition leaders and maintain peace in an effort to ensure elections are held according to the agreed timetable.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Haitians to "remain united" and "reject all violence." The 15 members of the UN Security Council unanimously called "for the perpetrators of this abhorrent crime to be swiftly brought to justice," urged "all parties to remain calm, exercise restraint" and avoid "any act that could contribute to further instability." An emergency meeting of the Security Council is scheduled for later Thursday. European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned of a "risk of instability and a spiral of violence."

What is the current political situation following the assassination?

Interim Prime Minister Joseph declared a two-week state of siege. In comments on television late Wednesday, he said "everything is under control." Haiti's constitution states Moise should be replaced by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but he died of COVID-19 in recent days.

On July 5, Moise had appointed Ariel Henry, 71, a French-trained neurosurgeon, as his seventh prime minister during his four years in office. While Henry is close to opposition figures, his appointment was unwanted by many in the opposition. Henry could not be confirmed due to a lack of quorum in parliament.

In an interview with Radio Zenith, he denied a rift with Joseph. "I only disagree with the fact that people have taken hasty decisions ... when the moment demands a little more serenity and maturity," he said. On September 26, Haiti is scheduled to have presidential and parliamentary elections. Moise had also pushed for a constitutional referendum granting the executive branch more authority.

Who was Jovenel Moise?

Before becoming president, Moise was a successful businessman who came onto the political scene campaigning as a populist, before he was sworn into office in February 2017. The end date of his tenure in office fueled tensions in the country stemming from a disagreement as to when his term began.

The 2015 election, which he won, was cancelled for fraud but he was re-elected in 2016. As a result, he said his term ran until February 2022 and not February 2021 as others claimed. Moise was not the first head of Haiti to be assassinated while in office. The country's first ruler following independence brought about by a slave revolt, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, was murdered in 1806.

 

ar/rt (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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