Four people suspected of murdering Haitian President Jovenel Moise have been shot dead by security forces, police say.
Two others have been arrested while officers are still fighting some remaining suspects in the capital, Port-au-Prince. “They will be killed or captured,” Police Chief Leon Charles said. Moïse, 53, was fatally shot and his wife injured when attackers stormed their home early Wednesday.
The unidentified gunmen broke into the private residence in Port-au-Prince at 01:00 local time (05:00 GMT).
Mr. Moïse was killed, but First Lady Martine Moïse survived and was flown to Florida where she is being treated.
She is reportedly in a stable but critical condition. “Four mercenaries were killed [and] two were intercepted under our control,” Charles said in a televised statement late Wednesday.
“Three police officers who were held hostage have been found.” “We blocked [the suspects] en route as they left the crime scene,” he added. “We’ve been fighting them ever since.
” After the assassination, interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph called for calm and declared a nationwide state of emergency.
The state of emergency, or “martial law,” allows the banning of gatherings and the use of the military for police duties, along with other extensions of executive powers.
US President Joe Biden, meanwhile, expressed his condolences to the people of Haiti for the “horrific murder”. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it “an abhorrent act” and also called for calm.
Moïse became Haiti’s president in 2017, but has recently faced widespread protests demanding his resignation. Coups, political instability, widespread gang violence and natural disasters have plagued the country for decades, making it the poorest country in America.
What do we know about the shooting? Joseph said the attackers were “foreigners who spoke English and Spanish”. The official languages of Haiti are Creole and French.
Some reports spoke of men dressed in black carrying powerful weapons that may have pretended to be part of a US drug enforcement operation, although no official details have been given.
Haitian Ambassador to the US Bocchit Edmond said US drug agents did not carry out the attack “in any way”. He believed it was the work of “professional mercenaries”.
Edmond later told Reuters news agency that the attackers posed as American drug agents when they broke into the president’s residence.
Addressing the nation, Joseph vowed that the killers would be brought to justice and said the security situation was “under control.”
There has been widespread international condemnation of the murder, which will be discussed Thursday at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
Who will take control? Joseph said that “all measures have been taken to ensure continuity” and that “democracy and the republic will win”. But questions remain about how much control he can exert.
Under Haiti’s constitution, ministers, headed by the prime minister, take charge in the event of a presidential vacancy until elections can be called.
But that too remains unclear, as a new Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, was appointed by Mr Moise this week but has not yet been sworn in. The US said it believed elections should be held this year to bring about a peaceful transfer of power.
Pronunciation by decree Jovenel Moïse’s term in office has been difficult, as he was accused of corruption and there were widespread demonstrations in the capital and other cities earlier this year.
Parliamentary elections should have taken place in October 2019, but disputes have delayed them, meaning Mr Moïse had ruled by decree. In February this year, on the day the opposition wanted him to resign from office, Mr Moise said an attempt to assassinate him and overthrow the government had been thwarted.
Haiti has also experienced a spate of gang violence and kidnappings, especially in the capital, with some of the districts becoming no-go areas.
The deteriorating standard of living in the country of 11 million people has pushed nearly 60% below the poverty line. An earthquake in 2010 killed more than 200,000 people and caused major damage to infrastructure and the economy.
A UN peacekeeping force was set up in 2004 to help stabilize the country and only withdrew in 2017, but there is no sign of an end to the unrest.