The Americans James Solages and Joseph Vincent among the 15 detained for the assassination of the Haitian president


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Elections Minister Mathias Pierre told CNN that two U.S. citizens are linked to Wednesday’s attack. Pierre identified the men as James Solages and Joseph Vincent, both naturalized from Haiti.

At a press conference Thursday in the capital Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s police chief Léon Charles said 28 people were involved in the assassination, including 26 Colombians, in addition to the two Haitians. – Americans.

Seventeen people were “caught,” Charles said. Haitian police are looking for at least eight other people.

Separately, on Thursday, the Colombian defense ministry announced that at least six suspected attackers were retired members of the Colombian military.

In a video statement, Defense Minister Diego Molano said Interpol had requested information from the Colombian government and the national police on the alleged perpetrators.

“Preliminary information indicates that these are Colombian citizens, retired members of the national army,” Molano said.

Minister Molano also pledged that Bogota would cooperate with the investigation.

The chief of the national police, General Jorge Vargas, added that two suspects, killed in an operation of the Haitian police, were retired officers of the Colombian army, and four arrested by the Haitian police were of retired soldiers.

Haitian Ambassador to the United States Bocchit Edmond called the suspects foreign “mercenaries” and said he believed they had received help from Haitian nationals, but officials disclosed little. public details of the attack.

The Haitian National Police have requested assistance in investigating and the United States is responding to that request, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. Price said the situation was “evolving rapidly”.

Moise’s death comes amid extreme violence in the capital Port-au-Prince which has claimed the lives of many citizens in recent weeks. Haiti was already grappling with political turmoil, a growing humanitarian crisis and a worsening Covid-19 epidemic.

The assassination also leaves a huge power vacuum in Haiti. Its parliament is effectively dead and two men simultaneously claim to be the legitimate prime minister of the country.

The president of the Supreme Court would normally be the next to take over on an interim basis, but he recently died of Covid-19, Judge Jean Wilner Morin, president of the National Association of Haitian Judges, told CNN.

Joseph declared a “state of siege” in Haiti on Wednesday, closing the country’s borders and imposing martial law.

But Joseph has not been confirmed by parliament – which has not sat since 2020 – and he was in the process of being replaced by Ariel Henry, whom the president appointed shortly before his death. Henry told the Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste that “Claude Joseph is not prime minister, he is part of my government”.

First Lady Martine Moise arrives at the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Health System in Miami on July 7.

Moise was killed in an attack on his private residence in Pétion-Ville, a suburb of the Haitian capital, early Wednesday. The attackers stormed Moise’s home around 1 a.m. and fatally wounded the head of state.

Former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said Moise was shot 16 times. Speaking to CNN, Lamothe said he was calling for an international investigation into the assassination.

“The president had a lot of enemies, powerful enemies at the local level that he was doing a lot of reforms, and he had a lot of hindsight on those reforms,” ​​Lamothe said.

Haiti’s first lady Martine Moise was shot dead in the attack and was evacuated to a Miami hospital for treatment, according to Edmond, who said her condition was stable but critical. Footage showed her on a stretcher arriving at the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Health System in Miami.

“The first lady is in intensive care and she is injured and is doing better, thank goodness,” Lamonthe said.

Ambassador Edmond said that although he did not have the latest information on Martine Moise’s state of health, he believed “she is now out of danger”.

Edmond said he believed the suspects, whom he called “well-trained killers”, had received help from Haitian nationals because of the vehicles they were using to get to the presidential residence where the president was killed. Edmond said the Haitian National Police were in the process of determining their nationalities.

“We are trying to move forward and see how we can identify more of those who participated in this horrific act,” he said.

The leader of Haiti has been killed.  Here's what you need to know

Video from the scene showed suspects speaking Spanish and posing as agents of the Drug and Enforcement Administration (DEA), Edmond said. “I think they are bogus DEA agents,” he told reporters. CNN viewed the video and cannot independently confirm the authenticity of the audio or video.

“We don’t know how they got in,” Edmond said, adding that they didn’t know if the attackers were still in the country. He said that if they had left, it would be via a land border with the Dominican Republic because Haiti would have detected a departing plane and the airport has been closed since the attack. He said the airport would reopen “once we get this situation under control”.

The Dominican Republic’s flight authority has suspended flight operations to and from the Republic of Haiti, the country’s civil aviation council said in a statement.

Addressing the nation after the assassination, Joseph, the acting prime minister, declared a state of siege and pleaded with the citizens to remain calm.

The state of siege is the middle of three levels of emergency under Haitian law, alongside the lower “state of emergency” and the highest level called “state of war.”

Under the state of siege, national borders are closed and martial law is temporarily imposed, with the Haitian army and national police empowered to enforce the law.

Division digit

Moise, 53, was a former banana exporter and a divisive figure in Haitian politics. He has spent most of the past year waging a political war with the opposition over the terms of his presidency.

For now, it is not immediately clear who will replace him. Judge Jean Wilner Morin, president of the National Association of Haitian Judges, told CNN that presidential succession in the country is now murky.

An ambulance carrying the body of Haitian President Jovenel Moise walks past a mural depicting him near the leader's residence in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, July 7.

Throughout his presidency, Moise had repeatedly failed to hold elections at the local and national levels, leaving much of the country’s government infrastructure empty. A constitutional referendum is due to be held in September, alongside the presidential and legislative elections. Municipal and local elections are scheduled for January 16, 2022, the official electoral calendar also said.

Many in the country had challenged Moise’s right to continue serving as president this year.

Moise’s private residence is located in Pétion-Ville, in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince.

While the United States, the United Nations and the Organization of American States have backed his claim for a fifth year in power, critics say he should have stepped down on February 7, citing a constitutional provision that kicks off the clock once a president is elected, rather than when he takes office.

Moise, however, claimed that his five-year term is expected to end in 2022 as he was not sworn in until February 2017. His inauguration was delayed due to allegations of voter fraud in the 2015 election. which led to a presidential runoff which was postponed twice. what the authorities called threats and “security problems”.

Worsening of the situation

The Haitian capital has been reeling from violence for weeks, with rival groups fighting among themselves or the police for control of the streets, displacing tens of thousands of people and exacerbating the country’s humanitarian crisis.

Ex-policeman Jimmy Cherizier vowed last week to local media to lead a “revolution” in the city.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic has worsened in Haiti. UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency, said on Thursday that Haiti was the only country in the western hemisphere not to have received a single dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Moise sits with his wife, Martine, during his swearing-in ceremony in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, February 7, 2017.

Last month, the Pan American Health Organization warned that the response in the country needed to be significantly stepped up to deal with the sharp rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Haiti has reported more than 19,000 Covid-19 cases and 467 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.

At the same time, the country is facing a dire economic situation. Its economy had contracted even before the pandemic and shrank a further 3.8% in 2020, with around 60% of the population now living in poverty, according to the World Bank.

According to UNICEF, more than 1.5 million children are currently in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Haiti. The agency said acute child malnutrition in children under five increased 61% last year and admissions of severely malnourished children to health facilities across Haiti jumped 26% in the last year. during the first three months of this year, she added.

“The new wave of violent incidents that could arise after the assassination of the President of Haiti could further exacerbate humanitarian needs and hamper humanitarian access to the most vulnerable groups, leaving thousands of people affected with little or no assistance, ”warned UNICEF.

Caitlin Hu, Stefano Pozzebon, Sharon Braithwaite, Claudia Rebaza, Jennifer Hansler, Emmet Lyons, Melissa Bell, Artemis Moshtaghian and Stephanie Halasz contributed reporting.

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