Haiti said it has begun the hunt for the killers of President Jovenel Moise, who was shot dead by gunmen with assault rifles in his private residence overnight on Wednesday.
The assassination, which drew condemnation from Washington and neighbouring Latin American countries, came amid political unrest, a surge in gang violence and a growing humanitarian crisis in the poorest nation in the Americas.
The government declared a two-week state of emergency to help it hunt down the killers whom Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, described as a group of “foreign mercenaries” and well-trained killers.
Edmond told Reuters in an interview the gunmen were masquerading as U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents as they entered Moise’s guarded residence under cover of nightfall – a move that would likely have helped them gain entry.
Haitian authorities would welcome U.S. security assistance in the wake of the assassination, he said.
The gunmen spoke English and Spanish, said interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who assumed the leadership of the country, where the majority speak French or Haitian Creole.
“My compatriots – remain calm because the situation is under control,” Joseph said in a televised address to the nation, backed by a row of somber-faced officials.
“This blow has wounded this country, this nation, but it will not go unpunished.”
Haiti, a country of about 11 million people, has struggled to achieve stability since the fall of the Duvalier dynastic dictatorship in 1986, and has grappled with a series of coups and foreign interventions.
The president’s wife, Martine Moise, was also shot in the attack, which took place at around 1 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) at the couple’s home in the hills above Port-au-Prince.
She is in critical condition and arrived in Miami, Florida late on Wednesday for treatment.
U.S. President Joe Biden denounced the killing as “heinous” and called the situation in Haiti – which lies some 700 miles (1,125 km) off the Florida coast – worrisome. “We stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti,” he said.
The Dominican Republic closed the border it shares with Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, except to returning nationals, and beefed up security.
“This crime is an attack against the democratic order of Haiti and the region,” Dominican Republic President Luis Abinader said.
The U.N. Security Council expressed deep shock and sympathy over Moise’s death ahead of a closed-door meeting on Thursday, requested by the United States and Mexico, to evaluate the situation.
A U.N. peacekeeping mission – meant to restore order after a rebellion toppled then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004 – ended in 2019 with the country still in disarray.
Source: Nigerian Newspapers Online