At least 12 bodies found after gang attacks in upscale Haiti suburb

Bodies found outside capital, Port-au-Prince, as attacks by gang members have ravaged the country for weeks.

Police patrol in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after authorities extend a state of emergency [File: Ralph Tedy Erol/Reuters]Published On 18 Mar 202418 Mar 2024

At least 12 bodies have been removed by ambulance from the affluent neighbourhood of Petion-Ville on the outskirts of the Haitian capital as tensions simmer pending the announcement of a new government.

Gunmen looted homes in the mountainous communities of Laboule and Thomassin before sunrise on Monday, forcing residents to flee as some called radio stations pleading for police.

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The neighbourhoods had remained largely peaceful despite a surge in gang attacks across Port-au-Prince that began on February 29.

The bodies of the victims, who had been shot, were removed from the main road leading into the suburb and from outside a fuel station, the Reuters and Associated Press news agencies reported.

The latest attacks have raised concerns that gang violence will not end despite Prime Minister Ariel Henry announcing nearly a week ago that he would resign once a transitional presidential council is created. The council will have seven voting members and two observers from different political coalitions and sectors of society.

Gang leaders, who have long sought to remove Henry, have warned of a “battle” for Haiti and threatened politicians who join the transition council. Meanwhile, residents are facing worsening shortages of food and medical care.

Haiti has seen years of unrest that took a sharp turn to the worst after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021.

The crisis deepened this year as Haitian armed groups launched attacks on police, prisons and other state institutions. The main airport in Port-au-Prince has been shut down, and residents have been afraid to leave their homes to get water, food and other supplies.

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

The company said criminals also seized important documents, cables, inverters, batteries and other items.

The deteriorating conditions are making it difficult for humanitarian organisations to deliver aid to the Caribbean country, said Jean-Michael Bauer, the Haiti director at the United Nations World Food Programme.

“Port-au-Prince is a place that’s in a bubble right now. You can’t get in and out by road. It’s very difficult to get in by air. Getting in and out by sea is a challenge,” Bauer told European Parliament’s subcommittee on human rights on Monday.

“We need security in this country. Security is the number one problem right now. But we also need to make sure that at the same time we bring security, that we have a strong humanitarian component to everything we do.”

The violence has created a political impasse that has seen the UN as well as the United States and Canadian embassies withdrawing their staff in recent days.

The international community is also pushing to deploy a Kenyan-led police force to help maintain security in Haiti.

US Department of State spokesperson Vedant Patel on Monday said that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is close to finalising the transitional council.

“The announcement of this council, we believe, will help pave the way for free and fair elections and the deployment of the multi-national security support mission,” Patel told reporters.

The State Department has chartered flights to evacuate dozens of US citizens out of Haiti. Patel said the evacuation plan was put in place in response to the limited availability of commercial flights out of the country.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies