The failed assassination attempt against Iraq’s prime minister at his residence on Sunday has ratcheted up tensions following last month’s parliamentary elections, in which the Iran-backed militias were the biggest losers. Helicopters circled in the Baghdad skies throughout the day, while troops and patrols deployed around Baghdad and near the capital’s fortified Green Zone, where the overnight attack occurred. Supporters of the Iran-backed militias held their ground in a protest camp outside the Green Zone to demand a vote recount. Leaders of the Iran-backed factions converged for the second day on a funeral tent to mourn a protester killed Friday in clashes with security. Many of the faction leaders blame the prime minister for the violence. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi suffered a light cut and appeared in a televised speech soon after the attack by armed drones on his residence. He appeared calm and composed, seated behind a desk in a white shirt and what appeared to be a bandage around his left wrist. Seven of his security guards were wounded in the attack by at least two armed drones, according to two Iraqi officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give official statements. Al-Khadimi called for calm dialogue. “Cowardly rocket and drone attacks don’t build homelands and don’t build a future,” he said in the televised speech. Read: Iraqi prime minister survives assassination bid with drones Condemnation of the attack poured in from world leaders, with several calling Al-Khadimi with words of support. They included French President Emmanuel Macron, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Saudi Arabia called the attack an apparent act of “terrorism.” Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi on Facebook urged all sides in Iraq to “join forces to preserve the country’s stability.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken talked with al-Kadhimi on Sunday to relay U.S. condemnation of the attack and to underscore that the U.S. partnership with the Iraqi government “is steadfast,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. Also on Sunday, al-Khadimi met with Iraqi President Barham Salih and headed security and Cabinet meetings. A security video showed the damage to his residence: a van parked outside the residence badly mangled, a shallow crater near the stairs, cracks in the ceiling and walls of a balcony and broken parts of the building’s roof. Two unexploded rockets were filmed at the scene. There was no claim of responsibility, but suspicion immediately fell on Iran-backed militias. They had been blamed for previous attacks on the Green Zone, which also houses foreign embassies. The militia leaders condemned the attack, but most sought to downplay it. Read: Colin Powell: A trailblazing legacy, blotted by Iraq war It was a dramatic escalation in the already tense situation following the Oct. 10 vote and the surprising results in which Iran-backed militias lost about two-thirds of their seats. Despite a low turnout, the results confirmed a rising wave of discontent against the militias that had been praised years before as heroes for fighting Islamic State militants. But the militias lost popularity since 2018, when they made big election gains. Many hold them responsible for suppressing the 2019 youth-led anti-government protests, and for undermining state authority. The attack “is to cut off the road that could lead to a second al-Kadhimi term by those who lost in the recent elections,” said Bassam al-Qizwini, a Baghdad political analyst. “They started escalating first in the street, then clashed with Iraqi Security Forces, and now this.” On Friday, protests by supporters of the pro-Iran Shiite militias turned deadly when the demonstrators tried to enter the Green Zone where they had been camped out, demanding a recount. Security forces used tear gas and live ammunition. There was an exchange of fire in which one protester affiliated with the militias was killed. Dozens of security forces were injured. Al-Khadimi ordered an investigation. “The blood of martyrs is to hold you accountable,” said Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, addressing al-Kadhimi in recorded comments to supporters. He blamed him for election fraud. In the strongest criticism of the prime minister, Abu Ali al-Askari, a senior leader with one of the hardline pro-Iran militias, Kataib Hezbollah, questioned whether the assassination attempt was really al-Kadhimi’s effort to “play the role of the victim.” “According to our confirmed information no one in Iraq has the desire to lose a drone on the residence” of al-Kadhimi, al-Askari wrote in a Twitter post. “If anyone wants to harm this Facebook creature there are many ways that are less costly and more effective to realize that.” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh condemned the assassination attempt on al-Khadimi and indirectly blamed the U.S. The escalation also reveals a level of nervousness among Iran and its allies as they realize that political results don’t always translate into control, said Joseph Bahout, a director of research at the American University of Beirut. “This is an act depicting fear of loss of control. Al-Khadimi is being now perceived as a Trojan horse for more erosion of Iran’s grip on the country,” Bahout said. Al-Kadhimi, 54, was Iraq’s former intelligence chief before becoming prime minister in May last year. He is considered by the militias to be close to the U.S., and has tried to balance between Iraq’s alliances with both the U.S. and Iran. Prior to the elections, he hosted several rounds of talks between regional foes Iran and Saudi Arabia in Baghdad in a bid to ease regional tensions. Marsin Alshamary, an Iraqi-American research fellow with the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, said the attack resurfaced the long-term challenge of how to curb the powers of the militias without triggering a civil war. For al-Kadhami, the stakes are now higher if he is to remain as prime minister. “He doesn’t have a political party and so he is susceptible to direct attack with no party to negotiate or protect him,” she added. Iraq’s election commission has yet to announce the final results. The parliament could then convene, elect a president and form a government. The U.S., the U.N. Security Council and others have praised the election, which was mostly violence-free and without major technical glitches. But the unsubstantiated fraud claims have cast a shadow over the vote. The standoff with the militia supporters has increased tensions among rival Shiite factions that could spill into violence and threaten Iraq’s newfound relative stability. Influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who won the largest number of parliament seats in the Oct. 10 elections, denounced the “terrorist attack,” which he said seeks to return Iraq to the lawlessness and chaos of the past. While al-Sadr maintains good relations with Iran, he publicly opposes external interference in Iraq’s affairs.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Sunday vowed to bring back the self-confessed fugitive killers of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to execute the court verdict and sought support from people of the country living at home and abroad. "A killer is a killer, no matter the lapse of time. We want Bangabandhu’s killers to be deported to Bangladesh," he told reporters, adding that things would have been different if voices were raised from the very beginning. Read:Inspired to protect the values Bangabandhu stood for: India Dr Momen pointed out the military governments led by Ziaur Rahman and HM Ershad; and BNP-Jamaat government headed by Khaleda Zia which patronized the killers and helped the killers get established. "Anyway, past is past. We're trying to bring them back," he said after attending a programme at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, marking the National Mourning Day. The five fugitive killers of Bangabandhu are Khandaker Abdur Rashid, Shariful Haque Dalim, Nur Chowdhury, Rashed Chowdhury and Moslehuddin Khan. The Interpol issued a red notice regarding Noor Chowdhury on August 31, 2009, which was extended for five years on March 25, 2019. A red notice was issued about Rashed Chowdhury on January 7, 2009, which was extended on July 26, 2018 for five years. Dr Momen said Bangladesh has so far confirmed the current location of two killers. They are sacked lieutenant colonel SHMB Noor Chowdhury and sacked lieutenant colonel Rashed Chowdhury who are taking shelter in Canada and the United States respectively, he said. Read: Mourning Day: PM pays homage to Bangabandhu The Foreign Minister said they do not know about three other killers but it is understood that they are moving from one country to another. He urged the Bangladeshis living in these two countries to stage demonstration in front of the killers’ residences once in a month to mount community pressures on the authorities there for their deportation. Dr Momen said Bangladesh Missions abroad have also been asked to work hard to that end saying Bangladesh will follow the path law for the killers deportation. He said if any Bangladeshi can give accurate information about the killers, the information provider will be rewarded. "Share information with us. You will be rewarded if your information is correct." On November 19, 2009, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court upheld the High Court verdict, confirming capital punishment of 12 killers of Bangabandhu and his family members.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina paid rich tributes to Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, marking the 46th anniversary of his martyrdom and the National Mourning Day on Sunday. The prime minister paid homage to the Architect of the Independence by placing wreaths at his portrait in front of Bangabandhu Memorial Museum at Dhanmondi Road No 32. Read:Nation observing Bangabandhu’s anniversary of martyrdom in a somber mood After placing wreaths, the prime minister stood in solemn silence there for some time showing respect to the great leader and the great architect of Bangladesh’s independence.
Demonstrations in Cap-Haitien turned violent on Thursday as gunshots rang out while supporters of slain President Jovenel Moïse blocked roads and demanded justice while threatening to disrupt his upcoming funeral. A heavily armed police convoy carrying unknown officials rushed through a barricade of flaming tires set up at the end of a bridge, with one vehicle nearly flipping over as it passed through. “This is real messed up since Jovenel died,” said David Daniel, who stood in the doorway of a restaurant he co-owns as he watched the scene unfold. But he said he doesn’t think the unrest will have the effect demonstrators intend. “Violence has been here in Haiti since I was a kid, so I don’t think violence is going to change anything.” Read:Violence flares in Haiti ahead of slain president’s funeral Earlier on Thursday, a priest told mourners at a memorial service Thursday that too much blood is being shed in Haiti as authorities warned of more violence ahead of his funeral. The Rev. Jean-Gilles Sem spoke to dozens of people wearing white T-shirts emblazoned with Moïse’s picture. “The killings and kidnappings should stop,” he said, noting that poor communities are the most affected. “We’re tired.” The Mass at the cathedral in the northern coastal city of Cap-Haitien was about half-full and Moïse supporters kept interrupting as they cried out and accused Haiti’s elite of killing the president. A man who identified himself as John Jovie stood outside the church with a group of men and threatened more violence if wealthy members of the elite from the capital of Port-au-Prince showed up for the ceremonies. “We ask them not to come to the funeral,” he said. “If they come, we will cut their heads off. We will bring our guns out of hiding. …We want justice for Moïse.” The mayor of Cap-Haitien arrived at the cathedral with heavy security as men with high-powered weapons stood watch during the entire Mass. Read:Haiti's interim prime minister to step down Nearby, some people signed a blue condolences book that the mayor’s office had set up next to the cathedral as well-wishers stood before a portrait of Moïse and rows of candles whose flames flickered in the hot wind. “My President. Go in peace. God sees everything. Fight for change,” wrote Louis Judlin, a 36-year-old electrician and father of two. He said he is unemployed and struggles to find food to feed his children. “Life is truly hard for every Haitian. To eat, to go to school, to have health, transportation,” Judlin said. On Thursday evening, first lady Martine Moïse and her three children attended a small religious ceremony where government officials including newly installed Prime Minister Ariel Henry offered their condolences. It was her first public appearance since arriving in Cap-Haitien. She did not make any public comments. The Mass was held a day after violence erupted in Quartier-Morin, located between Cap-Haitien and Moïse’s hometown. Associated Press journalists saw the body of a man whom witnesses said was killed during the protests organized by armed men who blocked roads with large rocks and burning tires. “That’s the only way we have to demand justice,” Aurélien Stanley, a Moïse supporter, said of the violence. “If we don’t get justice for Jovenel, we will do whatever it takes to stop the funeral from happening.” Before the Mass began, several people stood at the entrance and shouted, “Justice for Moïse! Justice for Moïse!” A private funeral for Moïse was planned for Friday as authorities continue to investigate the July 7 attack at the president’s home, in which he was shot several times and his wife seriously wounded. Read:Martine Moïse, wife of slain president, returns to Haiti Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department announced the appointment of Daniel Foote, a career member of the Foreign Service, as its special envoy for Haiti. Foote will “engage with Haitian and international partners to facilitate long-term peace and stability and support efforts to hold free and fair presidential and legislative elections,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. Haiti’s police chief, Léon Charles, said 26 suspects have been arrested so far, including three police officers and 18 former Colombian soldiers. Another seven high-ranking police officials have been detained but not formally arrested as authorities probe why no one in the president’s security detail was injured that night.
Hundreds of workers fled businesses in northern Haiti on Wednesday after demonstrations near the hometown of assassinated President Jovenel Moïse grew violent ahead of his funeral. Associated Press journalists observed the body of one man who witnesses said was shot in the community of Quartier-Morin, which is near Trou-du-Nord, where Moïse was born. Roadblocks were set up between the two communities, temporarily barring cars from entering or leaving as two plumes of thick, black smoke rose nearby. Read:Haiti's interim prime minister to step down Many workers walked hurriedly in a single file along the main road that connects Quartier-Morin with Cap-Haitien, the city where events to honor Moïse were scheduled to start Thursday ahead of Friday’s funeral. Fleeing people said they saw burning tires and men with weapons demanding justice for Moïse. One woman who was out of breath said the armed men told her, “Go! Go! Go!” as employees clad in uniforms of all colors obeyed and left the area. She declined to give her name, saying she feared for her life. Abnel Pierre, who works at the Caracol Industrial Park, said he was forced to walk 45 minutes home because the bus that transports employees was stuck behind blockades. He declined further comment as he walked swiftly toward his house as the sky began to darken. Read:Martine Moïse, wife of slain president, returns to Haiti These were the first violent demonstrations since Moïse was shot to death at his private home. They came a day after Ariel Henry was sworn in as the country’s new prime minister, pledging to form a provisional consensus government and to restore order and security. In the capital of Port-au-Prince, Martine Moïse, widow of the slain president, made her first public appearance since her surprise return to Haiti on Saturday, although she did not speak. She had been recuperating at a hospital in Miami after she was wounded in the July 7 attack at the couple’s private home. She wore a black dress and black face mask and her right arm was in a black sling as she met with officials near the National Pantheon Museum, where ceremonies are being held to commemorate her husband. She was accompanied by her three children. The capital remained peaceful in contrast with the community in northern Haiti. Read:Power vacuum rattles Haiti in wake of president’s killing Authorities have said at least 26 suspects have been detained as part of the investigation into the assassination, including 18 former Colombian soldiers and three Haitian police officers. At least seven high-ranking police officers have been placed in isolation, but not formally arrested, Police Chief Léon Charles has said. On Wednesday, Colombia’s government said it would have a consular mission in Haiti on July 25-27 to help the detained ex- soldiers and repatriate the bodies of the three others killed by Haitian authorities in the aftermath of the assassination.
Pressure is mounting on the man who claims to be Haiti’s leader in the aftermath of the president’s assassination, with at least two other officials claiming to be the legitimate head of government amid a race to fill the political power vacuum. Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who is ruling Haiti with the backing of lean police and military forces, has pledged to work with the opposition and allies of President Jovenel Moïse, who was killed Wednesday at his private residence. He faces two rivals: Ariel Henry, whom Moïse designated as prime minister a day before he was killed, and Joseph Lambert, the head of Haiti’s dismantled Senate, who was recently chosen by a group of well-known politicians to be provisional president. Meanwhile, a coalition of main opposition parties called the Democratic and Popular Sector presented its own proposal Tuesday for the creation of what it called the Independent Moral Authority. It would be made up of human rights activists, religious leaders, academics and others who would be charged with reviewing and merging all proposals. Read: Mystery grows with key suspect in Haiti president killing Also on Tuesday, members of Haiti’s civil society announced that they were working on a proposal for a smooth transition and declined to say whether it supports a specific person to lead Haiti. “We don’t want them to reduce us to who should do what,” said Magalie Georges, a teacher and union leader. Lambert was supposed to be sworn in Sunday as a symbolic act, but the event was canceled at the last minute because he said not all his supporters could be present. Joseph, Henry and Lambert met Sunday with a U.S. delegation that included representatives from the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security who flew to Haiti to encourage dialogue “to reach a political accord that can enable the country to hold free and fair elections,” the White House’s National Security Council said. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the delegation received a request for additional assistance, but she did not provide details. Haiti’s request for U.S. military help remains “under review,” she said. Psaki suggested that political uncertainty on the ground was a complicating factor as the administration weighs how to help. “What was clear from their trip is that there is a lack of clarity about the future of political leadership,” Psaki said. Haiti is also seeking security assistance from the United Nations. The U.N. has been involved in Haiti on and off since 1990, but the last U.N. military peacekeepers left the country in 2017. Few details of the meeting between the U.S. delegation and the three men have emerged, although Lambert said he was urged to work together with other actors whom he did not identify. Read: Florida suspect in Haiti president killing deepens mystery “I am not looking for personal glory. We have the country first in mind,” he told Radio Télévision Caraïbes. The deepening political instability comes as Haitian authorities continue to probe the assassination with help from Colombia’s government. Twenty-six former Colombian soldiers are suspected in the killing, and 23 have been arrested, along with three Haitians. Léon Charles, head of Haiti’s National Police, said five suspects are still at large and at least three have been killed. Police on Tuesday identified three of the five fugitives, describing them as armed and dangerous. One is former Sen. John Joël Joseph, a well-known Haitian politician who is an opponent to the Tet Kale party that Moise belonged to. Another is Rodolphe Jaar, who uses the alias “Whiskey” and was indicted in 2013 with two other men in federal court in South Florida on charges of conspiring to smuggle cocaine from Colombia and Venezuela through Haiti to the U.S. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nearly four years in prison, according to court records. At his 2015 sentencing hearing, Jaar’s attorney told the court that Jaar had been a confidential source for the U.S. government for several years before his indictment. He also agreed to cooperate with federal authorities. In June 2000, Jaar filed a civil suit against the U.S. government seeking the return of a “large amount” of cash taken from him along with his passport and tourist visa when he was stopped in a rental car by customs agents. He was not arrested at the time, but Jaar said he learned that he was under investigation for money laundering. Jaar described himself in court papers as the owner of a successful import business in Haiti. He said his family has operated the enterprise since 1944. The third man was identified as Joseph Felix Badio, who once worked for Haiti’s Ministry of Justice and joined the government’s anti-corruption unit in 2013. The agency issued a statement saying Badio was fired in May following “serious breaches” of unspecified ethical rules, adding that it filed a complaint against him. Read: Haitian arrested as alleged tie to assassination masterminds Haitian police also have arrested a man considered a key suspect: Christian Emmanuel Sanon, 62, a Haitian physician, church pastor and Florida businessman who once expressed a desire to lead his country in a YouTube video and has denounced the country’s leaders as corrupt. Charles said Sanon was working with those who plotted the assassination and that Moïse’s killers were protecting him. He said officers who raided Sanon’s house in Haiti found a hat with a DEA logo, 20 boxes of bullets, gun parts, four license plates from the Dominican Republic, two cars and correspondence. But a business associate and a pastor in Florida who knew Sanon told the AP that he was religious and that they do not believe he was involved in violence. The associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said he believes Sanon was duped and described him as “completely gullible.” Sanon told him he was approached by people claiming to represent the U.S. State and Justice departments who wanted to install him as president. He said the plan was only for Moïse to be arrested, and Sanon would not have participated if he knew Moïse would be killed.
A physician. A church pastor. A failed Florida businessman who filed for bankruptcy. New details that have emerged about a man considered a key player in the killing of Haiti’s president deepened the mystery over the assassination that shocked this nation of more than 11 million people as it faces an uncertain future. Local authorities identified the suspect as Christian Emmanuel Sanon, 62, a Haitian who once expressed a desire to lead his country in a YouTube video. However he is unknown in Haitian political circles, and associates suggested he was duped by those really behind the slaying of President Jovenel Moïse in an attack last week that critically wounded his wife, Martine. A Florida friend of Sanon told The Associated Press the suspect is an evangelical Christian pastor and also is a licensed physician in Haiti, but not in the U.S. The associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of safety concerns, said Sanon told him he was approached by people claiming to represent the U.S. State and Justice departments who wanted to install him as president. Read:Florida suspect in Haiti president killing deepens mystery He said the plan was only for Moïse to be arrested, and Sanon would not have participated if he knew Moïse would be killed. “I guarantee you that,” the associate said. “This was supposed to be a mission to save Haiti from hell, with support from the U.S. government.” Echoing those sentiments was the Rev. Larry Caldwell, a Florida pastor, who said he worked with Sanon setting up churches and medical clinics in Haiti in 2000-2010. He doesn’t believe Sanon would have been involved in violence. “I know the character of the man,” Caldwell said. “You take a man like that and you’re then going to say he participated in a brutal crime of murder, knowing that being associated with that would send him to the pits of hell? ... If there was one man who would be willing to stand in the breach to help his country, it would be Christian.” Haiti’s National Police chief, Léon Charles, said Moïse’s killers were protecting Sanon, whom he accused of working with those who plotted the assassination. Charles said officers found a hat with the logo of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 20 boxes of bullets, gun parts, four license plates from the Dominican Republic, two cars and correspondence, among other things, in Sanon’s house in Haiti. Twenty-six former Colombian soldiers are suspected in the killing, and 23 have been arrested, along with three Haitians. Charles said five suspects are still at large and at least three have been killed. A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration official told AP that one of the suspects in Moïse’s assassination was at times a confidential source to the agency, and that the suspect reached out to his contacts at the DEA after the killing and was urged to surrender. The official said the DEA and a U.S. State Department official provided information to Haiti’s government that led to the surrender and arrest of one suspect and one other individual, whom it didn’t identify. Meanwhile, Colombia’s national police chief, Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas, said that a Florida-based enterprise, CTU Security, used its company credit card to buy 19 plane tickets from Bogota to Santo Domingo for Colombian suspects. Most arrived in the Dominican Republic in June and moved into Haiti within weeks, Vargas said. He said Dimitri Hérard, head of general security at Haiti’s National Palace, flew to Colombia, Ecuador and Panama in the months before the assassination, and Colombian police are investigating whether he had any role in recruiting the mercenaries. In Haiti, prosecutors are seeking to interrogate Hérard as part of the assassination investigation. Charles said that Sanon was in contact with CTU Security and that the company recruited the suspects in the killing. He said Sanon flew into Haiti in June on a private jet accompanied by several of the alleged gunmen. The suspects were told their job was to protect Sanon, but they were later ordered to arrest the president, Charles said. Charles said that after Moïse was killed, one suspect called Sanon, who got in touch with two people believed to be masterminds of the plot. He did not identify the masterminds or say if police know who they are. Read: Haitian arrested as alleged tie to assassination masterminds Sanon’s associate said he attended a recent meeting in Florida with Sanon and about a dozen other people, including Antonio Enmanuel Intriago Valera, a Venezuelan émigré to Miami who runs CTU Security. He said a presentation was made for rebuilding Haiti, including its water system, converting trash into energy and fixing roads. He said Sanon asked why the security team accompanying him to Haiti were all Colombians. Sanon was told that Haitians couldn’t be trusted and that the system is corrupt, the associate said. He said Sanon called him from Haiti a few days before the assassination and said the Colombians had disappeared. “I’m all by myself. Who are these people? I don’t know what they are doing,” the associate quoted Sanon as saying. Sanon “is completely gullible,” the associate added. “He thinks God is going to save everything.” Sanon has lived in Kansas City, Missouri and in Florida, where he filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and identified himself as a medical doctor in a YouTube video titled “Leadership for Haiti” in which he denounced the country’s leadership as corrupt and accused them of stripping the country’s resources. However, records show Sanon has never been licensed to practice medicine or any other occupation covered by Florida’s Department of Health. Sanon said in court papers filed in his 2013 bankruptcy case that he was a physician and a pastor at the Tabarre Evangelical Tabernacle in Haiti. He said he had stakes in enterprises including the Organization of Rome Haiti, which he identified as a non-governmental group, a radio station in Haiti and medical facilities in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. At the time of his bankruptcy, he and his wife reported income of $5,000 per month, and a home in Brandon, Florida, valued at about $143,000, with a mortgage of more than $367,000. A federal bankruptcy trustee later determined they hid ownership of about 35 acres in Haiti from creditors. Florida records show Sanon started about a dozen businesses over the last 20 years, all of which failed, including ones that appeared related to medical imaging, physical therapy, fossil fuel trading, real estate and veganism. Sanon’s arrest comes as a growing number of politicians have challenged interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who is currently in charge of Haiti with backing from police and the military. U.S. officials, including representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, met Sunday with Joseph, designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry and Joseph Lambert, the head of Haiti’s dismantled Senate, whom supporters have named as provisional president in a challenge to Joseph, according to the White House National Security Council. The delegation also met with Haiti’s National Police and reviewed the security of critical infrastructure, it said. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the delegation received a request for additional assistance. She said deployment of U.S. troops remained “under review,” but also suggested that Haiti’s political uncertainty was a complicating factor. Read: Gangs complicate Haiti effort to recover from assassination “What was clear from their trip is that there is a lack of clarity about the future of political leadership,” Psaki said. U.S. President Joe Biden said he was closely following developments, adding: “The people of Haiti deserve peace and security, and Haiti’s political leaders need to come together for the good of their country.” Meanwhile, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Haiti’s request for security assistance is being examined. The United Nations has been involved in Haiti on and off since 1990, but the last U.N. military peacekeepers left the country in 2017.
The head of Haiti’s national police announced Sunday that officers arrested a Haitian man accused of flying into the country on a private jet and working with the masterminds and alleged assassins behind the killing of President Jovenel Moïse. Police Chief Léon Charles identified the suspect as Christian Emmanuel Sanon, without giving any personal information about him, though it appears he has been living in Florida. The chief also gave no information on the purported masterminds. Charles said the alleged killers were protecting Sanon as the supposed president of Haiti, adding that officers found several items at his house, including a hat emblazoned with the logo of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 20 boxes of bullets, gun parts, four automobile license plates from the Dominican Republic, two cars and correspondence with unidentified people. “We continue to make strides,” Charles said of police efforts to solve the brazen attack early Wednesday at Moïse’s private home that killed the president and seriously wounded his wife, Martine Moïse, who was flown to Miami and remains hospitalized. Read:'We need help': Haiti's interim leader requests US troops Charles said a total of 26 Colombians are suspected in the killing of the president. Eighteen of them have been arrested, along with three Haitians. He said five of the suspects are still at large and at least three have been killed. “They are dangerous individuals,” he said. “I’m talking commando, specialized commando.” The chief said police are working with high-ranking Colombian officials to identify details of the alleged plot, including when the suspects left Colombia and who paid for their tickets. Charles said Sanon was in contact with a firm that provides security for politicians and recruited the suspects, adding that the suspect flew into Haiti with them in early June. The men’s initial mission was to protect Sanon, but they later received a new one: arrest the president, the chief said. “The operation started from there,” he said, adding that an additional 22 suspects joined the group and that contact was made with Haitian citizens. Charles said that after Moïse was killed, one of the suspects phoned Sanon, who then got in touch with two people believed to be the intellectual authors of the plot. He did not identify the masterminds or say if police knew who they are. The chief said Haitian authorities obtained the information from interrogations and other parts of the investigation. It was not immediately clear if Sanon had an attorney. Sanon has lived in Florida, in Broward County and in Hillsborough County on the Gulf Coast. Records show he has also lived in Kansas City, Missouri. He filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and identifies himself as a doctor in a video on YouTube titled “Leadership for Haiti.” Read:2 US men, ex-Colombia soldiers held in Haiti assassination In the video, he denounces the leaders of Haiti as corrupt, accusing them of stripping the country of its resources, saying that “they don’t care about the country, they don’t care about the people.” He claims Haiti has uranium, oil and other resources that have been taken by government officials. “With me in power, you are going to have to tell me: ’What are you doing with my uranium? What are you doing with the oil that we have in the country? What are you going to do with the gold?’” He also added: “This is a country with resources. Nine million people can’t be in poverty when we have so much resources in the country. It’s impossible. ... The world has to stop doing what they are doing right now. We can’t take it anymore. We need new leadership that will change the way of life.” Sanon has posted little on Twitter but has expressed an interest in Haitian politics. In September 2010, he tweeted: “Just completed a successful conference in Port-Au-Prince. Many people from the opposition attended.” A month later, he wrote: “Back to Haiti for an important meeting regarding the election. Pray for me for protection and wisdom.” The announcement of Sanon’s arrest was made hours after hundreds of Haitians sought solace in prayer at early Sunday church services as a political power struggle threatened to further destabilize their fragile country. Roman Catholic and Protestant church leaders asked for calm and told people to remain strong as anxiety about the future grew, with authorities providing no answers or theories about who masterminded the killing by a group of gunmen early Wednesday at the president’s home. Martine Moïse, the president’s wife, was critically injured and was transported to Miami for treatment. “Facing this situation, we will not be discouraged... You must stay and fight for peace,” Father Edwine Sainte-Louis said during a sermon broadcast on TV that included a small picture of Moïse with a banner that read: “Haiti will remember you.” Prosecutors have requested that high-profile politicians including presidential candidate Reginald Boulos and former Haitian Senate President Youri Latortue meet officials for questioning as the investigation continues. Authorities also said they plan to interview at least two members of Moïse’s security detail. Read: Haiti’s future uncertain after brazen slaying of president Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph is currently leading Haiti with the help of the police and military, but he faces mounting challenges to his power. Ariel Henry, whom Moïse designated as prime minister a day before he was killed, has said he believes he is the rightful prime minister, a claim also backed by a group of legislators who are members of Moïse’s Tet Kale party. That group also supports Joseph Lambert, head of Haiti’s dismantled Senate, as the country’s provisional president. Haiti, a country of more than 11 million people, currently has only 10 elected officials after it failed to hold parliamentary elections, leading Moïse to rule by decree for more than a year until his death. While the streets were calm on Sunday, government officials worry about what lies ahead and have requested U.S. and U.N. military assistance. “We still believe there is a path for chaos to happen,” Haiti Elections Minister Mathias Pierre told The Associated Press. Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby said on Fox News Sunday that the Pentagon is analyzing the request to send troops to Haiti and that no decisions have been made. He said a team, largely comprising agents from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, were heading down to Haiti “right now” to help with the investigation of the assassination. ’’I think that’s really where are our energies are best applied right now, in helping them get their arms around investigating this incident and figuring out who’s culpable, who’s responsible and how best to hold them accountable going forward,” Kirby said. The United Nations has been involved in Haiti on and off since 1990. The last U.N. peacekeeping mission arrived in 2004 and all military peacekeepers left the country in 2017. But a stabilization group stayed behind to train national police, help the government strengthen judicial and legal institutions and monitor human rights. That mission ended in 2019 and was replaced by a political mission headed by an American diplomat, Helen La Lime. In addition to helping normalize the country, the U.N. peacekeeping force played an important role after a devastating 2010 earthquake that killed as many as 300,000 people and after Hurricane Matthew in 2016. But U.N. troops from Nepal are widely blamed for inadvertently introducing cholera, which has afflicted over 800,000 people and killed more than 9,000 people since 2010. Some troops also have been implicated in sexual abuse, including of hungry young children. Read:Haiti in upheaval: President Moïse assassinated at home Laurent Dubois, a Haiti expert and Duke University professor, said questions over Moïse’s assassination could remain unanswered for a long time. “There are so many potential players who could be behind it,” he said, adding that the political strength of Pierre, the interim prime minister, is an open question. “There is going to be some jockeying for positions of power. That is one big worry.” In Port-au-Prince, resident Fritz Destin welcomed a priest’s sermon urging people not to be discouraged. “The country needs a lot of prayers,” he said. “The violence makes life a little uncertain.″
Gangs in Haiti have long been financed by powerful politicians and their allies — and many Haitians fear those backers may be losing control of the increasingly powerful armed groups who have driven thousands of people from their homes as they battle over territory, kill civilians and raid warehouses of food. The escalation in gang violence threatens to complicate — and be aggravated by — political efforts to recover from last week’s brazen slaying of President Jovenel Moïse. Haiti’s government is in disarray; no parliament, no president, a dispute over who is prime minister, a weak police force. But the gangs seem more organized and powerful than ever. While the violence has been centered in the capital of Port-au-Prince, it has affected life across Haiti, paralyzing the fragile economy, shuttering schools, overwhelming police and disrupting efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. “The country is transformed into a vast desert where wild animals engulf us,” said the Haitian Conference of the Religious in a recent statement decrying the spike in violent crime. “We are refugees and exiles in our own country.” Read:'We need help': Haiti's interim leader requests US troops Gangs recently have stolen tens of thousands of bags of sugar, rice and flour as well as ransacking and burning homes in the capital. That has driven thousands of people to seek shelter at churches, outdoor fields and a large gymnasium, where the government and international donors struggle to feed them and find long-term housing. Those included dozens of disabled people who were forced to flee last month when gangs set fire to the encampment where they settled after being injured in the catastrophic 2010 earthquake. “I was running for my life in the camp on these crutches,” said 44-year-old Obas Woylky, who lost a leg in the quake. “Bullets were flying from different directions. ... All I was able to see was fire in the homes.” He was among more than 350 people crammed into a school converted into a makeshift shelter where hardly anyone wore face masks against disease. A cigarette dangled from the mouth of an older woman who washed clothes in a large bowl while a group of children took turns flicking a single blue marble. Nearby, a teenage girl crouched next to an elderly blind man sitting on the concrete floor and lifted a small bag of water to his mouth. Experts say the violence is the worst they’ve seen since in roughly two decades — since before the creation of a second U.N. peacekeeping mission in 2004. Programs aimed at reducing gang activity and an influx of aid following the earthquake helped quell some of the problem, but once that money dried up and aid programs shut down, gangs turned to kidnappings and extortion from businesses and neighborhoods they control. Gangs are in part funded by powerful politicians, a practice recently denounced even by one of its reputed beneficiaries — Jimmy Cherizier, a former police officer who heads a gang coalition known as G9 Family and Allies. Read:2 US men, ex-Colombia soldiers held in Haiti assassination He complained that the country is being held “hostage” by people he did not identify: “They reign supreme everywhere, distribute weapons to the populous quarters, playing the division card to establish their domination.” Cherizier, known as “Barbecue,” has been linked to several massacres and his coalition is believed to be allied with Moïse’s right-wing party. He criticized those he called “bourgeois” and “exploiters,” adding: “We will use our weapons against them in favor of the Haitian people. ... We’re ready for war!” Cherizier held a news conference on Saturday and called Moïse’s killing “cowardly and villainous,” saying that while many disagreed with him, “no one wanted this tragic outcome that will worsen the crisis and amplify political instability.” He also issued a veiled warning: “We invite all those who are trying to take advantage of this coup to think carefully, to consider whether they have in their hands the appropriate solution to the country’s problems.” Cherizier added that he and others will demand justice for Moïse: “We are just now warming up.” G9 is one of at least 30 gangs that authorities believe control nearly half of Port-au-Prince. Their names range from “5 Seconds” — for how long it allegedly takes them to commit a crime — to “400 Mawozo” — which roughly translated means 400 lame men. The epicenter of the recent gang violence is Martissant, a community in southern Port-au-Prince whose main road connects the capital to southern Haiti. Drivers’ fear of caught in a crossfire or worse has almost paralyzed commercial connections between the two regions, driving up prices, delaying the transportation of food and fuel and forcing international organizations to cancel programs including the distribution of cash to more than 30,000 people, according to a July 1 report by the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The agency said more than 1 million people need immediate humanitarian assistance and protection. Read: Haiti’s future uncertain after brazen slaying of president “Newly displaced people seek refuge in shelters every day,” it said, adding that hygiene there was “appalling.” Authorities worry about a spike in COVID-19 cases in a country that has yet to give a single vaccine. “Escalating violence on an almost daily basis is expected to last for some time,” the agency said in a report. The overall economy doesn’t help. The U.N. said the cost of a basic food basket rose by 13% in May compared with February, and that foreign direct investment fell by more than 70% from 2018 to 2020, dropping from $105 million to $30 million. That translates into fewer jobs and increased poverty in a country where 60% of the population makes less than $2 a day and 25% less than $1 a day. Many also worry that the gangs could derail elections scheduled for September and November — a contest crucial to restoring functional legislative and executive branches now largely moribund in the wake of Moïse’s slaying. But Haiti’s elections minister, Mathias Pierre, said Saturday that those backing the gangs may want to disrupt the elections. Such periods commonly see an upsurge in violence as groups try to use fear to nullify rivals’ advantages. He said that wouldn’t work this time, noting that countries have held elections even during wars. “We need to organize elections. ...They need to back off.” Haiti’s Office of the Protection of Citizens, a sort of ombudsman agency, has urged the international community to help Haiti’s National Police, which it said was “unable to respond effectively to the gangsterization of the country.” Pierre said that lack of resources and weakness of Haiti’s police led the government to ask the United States and United Nations to send troops to help maintain order following Moïse’s killing: “We have a responsibility to avoid chaos.” Read:Haiti in upheaval: President Moïse assassinated at home Officials say they have been trying to boost the budget and manpower of a police force that now has about 9,000 operational officers for a country of more than 11 million people. Experts say it needs at least 30,000 officers to maintain control. The government also is trying to figure out where to put people who have fled their homes due to violence, such as 43-year-old Marjorie Benoit, her husband and their three children. Benoit, who lost an arm in the earthquake, said they fled as gunfire crackled around their neighborhood. She now also has lost her home and all their belongings. “We have been uprooted,” she said, “and we don’t know where to start.”
An already struggling and chaotic Haiti stumbled into an uncertain future Thursday, reeling from the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse followed by a reported gunbattle in which authorities said police killed four suspects in the murder, detained two others and freed three officers being held hostage. Officials pledged to find all those responsible for the predawn raid on Moïse’s house early Wednesday that left the president shot to death and his wife, Martine Moïse, critically wounded. She was flown to Miami for treatment. “The pursuit of the mercenaries continues,” Léon Charles, director of Haiti’s National Police, said Wednesday night in announcing the arrests of suspects. “Their fate is fixed: They will fall in the fighting or will be arrested.” Officials did not provide any details on the suspects, including their ages, names or nationalities, nor did they address a motive or what led police to the suspects. They said only that the attack condemned by Haiti’s main opposition parties and the international community was carried out by “a highly trained and heavily armed group” whose members spoke Spanish or English. Read: Haiti in upheaval: President Moïse assassinated at home Prime Minister Claude Joseph assumed leadership of Haiti with help of police and the military and decreed a two-week state of siege following Moïse’s killing, which stunned a nation grappling with some of the Western Hemisphere’s highest poverty, violence and political instability. Inflation and gang violence are spiraling upward as food and fuel becomes scarcer, while 60% of Haitian workers earn less than $2 a day. The increasingly dire situation comes as Haiti is still trying to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 following a history of dictatorship and political upheaval. Those in Haiti and family and friends living abroad wondered what is next. “There is this void now, and they are scared about what will happen to their loved ones,” said Marlene Bastien, executive director of Family Action Network Movement, a group that helps people in Miami’s Little Haiti community. She said it was important for the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden to take a much more active role in supporting attempts at national dialogue in Haiti with the aim of holding free, fair and credible elections. Bastien said she also wants to see participation of the extensive Haitian diaspora: “No more band-aids. The Haitian people have been crying and suffering for too long.” Read:Haiti President Jovenel Moïse assassinated at home Haiti had grown increasingly unstable under Moïse, who had been ruling by decree for more than a year and faced violent protests as critics accused him of trying to amass more power while the opposition demanded he step down. According to Haiti’s constitution, Moïse should be replaced by the president of Haiti’s Supreme Court, but the chief justice died in recent days from COVID-19, leaving open the question of who might rightfully succeed to the office. Joseph, meanwhile, was supposed to be replaced by Ariel Henry, who had been named prime minister by Moïse a day before the assassination. Henry told The Associated Press in a brief interview that he is the prime minister, calling it an exceptional and confusing situation. In another interview with Radio Zenith, he said there was no fight between him and Joseph: “I only disagree with the fact that people have taken hasty decisions ... when the moment demands a little more serenity and maturity.” Moïse had faced large protests in recent months that turned violent as opposition leaders and their supporters rejected his plans to hold a constitutional referendum with proposals that would strengthen the presidency. Hours after the assassination, public transportation and street vendors remained largely scarce, an unusual sight for the normally bustling streets of Port-au-Prince. Gunfire rang out intermittently across the city, a grim reminder of the growing power of gangs that displaced more than 14,700 people last month alone as they torched and ransacked homes in a fight over territory. Read:Haiti fights large COVID-19 spike as it awaits vaccines Robert Fatton, a Haitian politics expert at the University of Virginia, said gangs were a force to contend with and it isn’t certain Haiti’s security forces can enforce a state of siege. “It’s a really explosive situation,” he said, adding that foreign intervention with a U.N.-type military presence is a possibility. “Whether Claude Joseph manages to stay in power is a huge question. It will be very difficult to do so if he doesn’t create a government of national unity.” Joseph told The Associated Press that he supports an international investigation into the assassination and believes elections scheduled for later this year should be held as he promised to work with Moïse’s allies and opponents alike. “Everything is under control,” he said.