Suspects Killed and Captured after Haiti’s President Assassinated

Gunfire broke out in the Haitian capital of Port-Au-Prince Wednesday evening as Haitian police took on what they said were “mercenaries” suspected of assassinating the country’s president earlier that day. 

Moise HaitiMoise’s own time in office has been wracked by political instability. (Photo: Office of U.S. Ambassador to U.N., Wikipedia, License) Jovenel Moise, who had served as Haiti’s president since 2016, was shot in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Haitian officials said.

The assassins stormed Moise’s home shortly after midnight. Police killed four suspects and arrested two, according to the New York Times

Moise is confirmed dead while his wife, who was seriously injured, remains in critical condition and has been transferred to a hospital in the United States. 

The identity and motives of the attackers are not yet clear, however, Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph called them an “armed commando group” which included foreigners, according to the Guardian. The statement by the Haitian government pointed out that some were speaking Spanish. 

Police General Director Leon Charles described the four people killed as “mercenaries.”

A video taken during the attack, shows the intruders clad in military gear, holding long rifles, and referencing the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. One can be heard shouting in English with an American accent, “DEA operation. Everybody stand down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down,” as they stormed the property. 

Tensions had been building in Haiti for several months, with armed gangs kidnapping people, including priests, for ransom or attacking even orphanages. 

Wednesday’s attack happened just 24 hours after Moise had appointed a new prime minister, Ariel Henry, to lead an interim government in the Carribean nation before elections in two months. 

Moise’s own time in office has been wracked by political instability, and Henry is the sixth prime minister he had appointed since taking office in 2016. 

Set to be sworn in this week, a conflict is already brewing between Henry and Joseph.

According to the New York Times, Henry has stated that Joseph is “no longer prime minister,” and that the office belongs to him, while Joseph maintains that he is in charge. Haiti currently has no functioning parliament.

Moise’s resignation or removal from power was also the goal of a protest movement which has rocked the country in 2018, after a senate probe revealed significant corruption in his and past administrations. To date the ongoing unrest resulted in the deaths of nearly 200 protesters, 44 police officers and two journalists. 

Moise had long claimed there was a coup conspiracy against him, which “planned to murder him,” according to the Guardian.

The attack was followed by statements of support for Haitian democracy by its neighbors. 

“We stand ready and stand by them to provide any assistance that’s needed,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in an interview with CNN, while Colombian president Ivan Doque called on the Organisation of American States to send a mission to “protect the democratic order in Haiti,” the Guardian reported.

The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, has closed its land border. 

Prime minister Claude Joseph has urged Haiti’s populace to remain calm. 

“The security of the country is under the control of the National Police of Haiti and the Haitian Army,” he said in a statement. “All measures will be taken to ensure the continuity of the state and protect the nation. Democracy and Republic will prevail.”