July 20, 2024
Heavy gunfire has paralyzed Haiti’s capital and at least four police officers have been killed as a powerful gang leader announced he will try to capture the country’s police chief and government ministers.

Gunfire paralyzes Haiti as powerful gang leader says he will try to detain police chief, ministers

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Heavy gunfire paralyzed Haiti’s capital Thursday, and at least four police officers were slain, as a powerful gang leader announced that he would try to capture the country’s police chief and government ministers.

The move came during the absence of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who is in Kenya trying to finalize details for the deployment of a foreign armed force to Haiti to help combat gangs.

Gunmen shot at Haiti’s main international airport and other targets, including police stations, in a wave of violence that caught many people by surprise. At least four police officers, including two women, were killed in an attack on a station near the community of Canaan, according to a police union.

The violence forced the airport, businesses, government agencies and schools to close as parents and young children fled through the streets in panic. At least one airline, Sunrise Airways, suspended all flights.

Jimmy Chérizier, known as “Barbecue” and leader of the gang federation G9 Family and Allies, was seen in a recorded video announcing that the aim was to tie up the police chief and government ministers and prevent Henry from returning to Haiti.

With our guns and with the Haitian people, we will free the country,” he said.

A spokesman for the prime minister’s office could not be immediately reached for comment. The head of Haiti’s National Police, Frantz Elbé, and police spokesman Garry Desrosiers did not return messages for comment.

Gunfire still rang out Thursday evening and dozens of Haitians were seen carrying children and heavy bags stuffed with belongings fleeing their neighborhoods. They raised their hands as a peace offering to potential gangs while rushing through intersections.

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