2:18 PM PDT, July 8, 2021
Police say they arrested two suspects and killed four others overnight in connection to the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in his private home early Wednesday. A security alert was posted Wednesday citing an “ongoing security situation” and warned people to “avoid unnecessary travel” in Haiti for the moment, the interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph confirmed.
All six were reportedly foreigners, and one is believed to be Haitian-American, Haiti’s minister of elections and inter-party relations told the Washington Post.
The American suspect is believed to be from South Florida and was one of the two men apprehended, The New York Times reported.
The country’s ambassador to the United States called the gunmen “mercenaries” and said he believed they had received assistance from Haitian nationals, CNN reported.
A group of men reportedly entered Moïse’s Port-au-Prince residence around 1 a.m. local time Wednesday morning when they shot the president and wounded his wife, Martine Moïse.
“An unidentified group of individuals, some of whom were speaking in Spanish, attacked the private residence of the President of the Republic and mortally wounded him,” Joseph later said in a statement.
“The necessary measures are being taken,” Joseph continued. Moïse’s wife is being treated for her injuries.
“I call on the public to remain calm,” Joseph added. He denounced the crimes, calling it a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act.”
The security of the country is reportedly under the control of the Haitian National Police and the Haitian Armed Forces.
Haiti is a small island nation which has seen military coups and dictatorships. The country, home to over 11 million people, is just under 700 miles from the southeastern coast of Miami.
According to a video obtained by the Miami Herald, the gunmen claimed to be agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
In the video, the assailants were informing people inside of Moïse’s home to “put down your weapons. This is DEA.”
Someone said in English over a megaphone, “DEA operation. Everybody stands down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. government was assessing and gathering information and that President Biden will be briefed on the attack later Wednesday.
The country is still rebuilding itself after it was devastated by an earthquake 11 years ago and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
Haitians say that now that armed gangs are roaming the streets, kidnapping schemes involving young children and religious figures have become the norm, and poverty and hunger have become more prevalent, The New York Times reported.
Moïse ruled the country by decree for over two years after the country’s elections were stunted and the dissolution of the Parliament took place, according to reports.
Opposition leaders claimed Moïse was power hungry and they had demanded his departure from power ever since his presidential term legally ended in February.