Early on Wednesday a group of unknown attackers – described as foreign mercenaries, stormed the presidential residence in Port-au-Prince and killed Jovenel Moise, the President of Haiti. The assailants struck around 1 a.m. and fatally wounded the head of state, as well as his wife, Martine Moise, who has since been evacuated to a hospital in Miami for treatment.
Following the assassination, Haiti’s Prime Minister Claude Joseph, declared a state of siege. According to speculation, the assassins had assistance from Haitian nationals due to vehicles they used in the attack that killed Jovenel Moise. Also, Haitian officials suspect the attackers to be “mercenaries” and referred to them as “well-trained killers.”
“My compatriots – remain calm because the situation is under control. This blow has wounded this country, this nation, but it will not go unpunished,” said Prime Minister Claude Joseph.
What Happened in the Attack that Killed Jovenel Moise
Residents last night reported hearing high-powered rounds and saw men dressed in black running through the neighborhood. There were also claims of a grenade going off and drones being deployed. Further videos, supposedly taken by a neighbor, show men with rifles arriving outside the president’s house. It is not clear whether they are from the country’s security forces or if they are the assassins.
The assailants were pretending to be from the US Drugs Enforcement Agency and were mercenaries, a government source told The Miami Herald. In footage purportedly recorded by a witness, someone with an American accent shouts into a megaphone:
“DEA operation. Everybody stand down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down.”
Gunfire then erupts in the video which was uploaded to Instagram by someone who says they were in the Pelerin 5 neighborhood, where the president’s house is located.
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Officials in both Haiti and the US have dismissed any notion that the killers were actual DEA agents. US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said those claims were absolutely false.
“I believe they are fake DEA agents,” Haitian ambassador to the US, Edmond agreed in remarks to reporters.
Magistrate Carl Henry Destin told the Nouvelliste newspaper that Mr Moise’s body had a total of 12 bullet holes – in the forehead, chest, hips and abdomen.
“The president’s office and bedroom were ransacked. We found him lying on his back, blue pants, a white shirt smeared with blood, his mouth open, his left eye gouged out,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
Haiti’s first lady, was shot in the leg and arm, and seriously wounded in the abdomen and hand. The first couple’s daughter, Jomarlie, survived by hiding in her brother’s room. Also, two domestic staff members had been tied up by the attackers. No one apart from the president and first lady were shot.
Battle with the Police
Four people suspected of taking part in the attacked that killed Jovenel Moise died in a shootout with the security forces. Two others have been detained, while some remaining suspects are thought to be still at large in the nation’s capital Port-au-Prince.
“We blocked the suspects en route as they left the scene of the crime. Since then, we have been battling with them. They will be killed or captured,” police chief Leon Charles said.
Three police officers were taken hostage by the “mercenaries” at one point, but were subsequently freed.
The assassination came amid political turmoil in Haiti with Moise’s opponents trying to force him from office, claiming his five-year term has expired. President Moise said in February that he survived another assassination attempt, describing it as a coup. At least 23 people, including a top judge and police official, were arrested.
Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph stepped into the presidential power vacuum amid confusion over who should succeed President Moise. Prime Miniser Joseph has now declared a two-week state of siege, imposing martial law, halting all flights out of Port-Au-Prince and sealing the country’s borders. Neighboring Dominican Republic mobilized its military to guard Haiti’s only land border.
US President Joe Biden said he was shocked by the assassination and that a lot more information is needed.
“We are shocked and saddened to hear of the horrific assassination of President Jovenel Moise and the attack on First Lady Martine Moise.We condemn this heinous act and I am sending my sincere wishes for First Lady Moise’s recovery,” the US President said in a statement.
Haiti, a country of about 11 million people, has been strugling to achieve stability since the fall of the Duvalier dynastic dictatorship in 1986. President Moise’s killing risks throwing the country into total chaos after months of violent demonstrations.
More than 14,700 people have fled their homes due to the spate of killings. Inflation also contributed to instability, with prices exploding 23 percent in May from a year ago. In Haiti, 60 percent of the population makes less than USD 2 per day.