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Haiti suspected gang members set on fire as conflict spreads to capital suburb

Published 03/20/2024, 08:25 PM
Updated 03/20/2024, 10:07 PM
© Reuters. A person walks past damaged cars in the Carrefour Feuilles neighborhood, which was deserted due to gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti March 19, 2024. REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol

By Ralph Tedy Erol and Sarah Morland

(Reuters) -Suspected gang members were killed during an attack on the Petion-Ville neighborhood on the southern outskirts of Haiti's capital, as a clash with police and locals pointed to a resurgence of vigilante justice while the state remains absent.

The latest outburst of violence comes as the political future of the crisis-racked Caribbean island nation hangs in limbo.

A Reuters reporter saw two suspected gang members including a leader known as Makandal killed and set on fire. Footage seen by Reuters earlier showed the bodies lying and being dragged on the street, one man with his hands cut off.

Makandal's family home was also set on fire.

Radio RFM reported citing police sources that the local population had been involved in a shootout in Petion-Ville, located on the southern edge of the capital Port-au-Prince.

Almost a year ago, a group of Port-au-Prince residents lynched and set fire to around a dozen men believed to be gang members launching what became known as the Bwa Kale movement, a vigilante justice movement which rights groups say has sometimes been carried out with members of Haiti's police.


Earlier on Wednesday, Le Nouvelliste reported at least 15 people had been killed in attacks around Petion-Ville, home to several upscale hotels as well as around a dozen embassies. Residents there barricaded themselves inside their homes while armed men had carried out fresh attacks east of the city.

Petion-Ville is close to hotels that gang leader Jimmy "Barbeque" Cherizier threatened last week, saying he would go after hotel owners hiding old-guard politicians.

Despite Prime Minister Ariel Henry saying he would step down last week - a demand of the increasingly powerful gangs that control most of Port-au-Prince - violence has continued as Henry remains stranded outside the country.

Meanwhile, the acting prime minister has extended a nightly curfew launched earlier this month.

In a bid to tame the lawlessness that has increasingly gripped the country since its former president was assassinated in 2021, a presidential transition council has been brokered by international leaders but its makeup remains unclear and gangs have threatened politicians who take part.

U.S. officials said last week they expected the council's makeup to be defined within a couple of days, but some factions tapped for representation rejected the plan or were unable to unite behind one leader. Those left out have criticized the council as empowering members of groups they considered to be corrupt.

Meanwhile, security has been bolstered at embassies, while some nations have launched evacuations of foreign nationals. On Tuesday, the neighboring Dominican Republic said it had evacuated close to 300 people, including personnel from the European Union, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. With the airport closed, the U.S. said it was evacuating its citizens by helicopter.

© Reuters. A person walks past damaged cars in the Carrefour Feuilles neighborhood, which was deserted due to gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti March 19, 2024. REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol

Across the city in Carrefour (EPA:CARR) Feuilles, an alleged gang leader on Tuesday rallied supporters in a bid to retake control of the zone after heavy fighting forced thousands from their homes last August.

Hundreds of thousands have been displaced within Haiti and thousands killed amid widespread reports of rape, arson and ransom kidnappings, while food prices soar and hospitals run short of key supplies such as blood and oxygen.

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