Residents flee as Haitian gangs launch new gun and arson attacks in capital

Last Updated: June 19, 2024By

Chaos in Port-au-Prince: Gangs Strike Again

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Gunmen have hit Port-au-Prince with a fresh wave of attacks, setting homes ablaze and engaging in shootouts with the police for hours. This marks one of the most intense bursts of violence since Haiti’s new prime minister took office.

The assaults began late Wednesday in various neighborhoods like Solino and Delmas 18, 20, and 24, southwest of the main international airport, which has been shut for nearly two months now.

“The gangs were setting everything on fire,” recounted Néne, who chose not to disclose his full name due to fear. “I spent the night cowering in a corner.”

Néne and a friend struggled with a dusty red suitcase, crammed with clothes—the only possessions they managed to salvage. These clothes were for Néne’s kids, whom he hurriedly evacuated from Delmas 18 at dawn during a lull in the fighting.

Areas that were once teeming with life were now deserted, with an eerie silence enveloping the surroundings, interrupted only by the occasional bleating of a solitary goat.

An armored police truck prowled the streets, passing burnt-out vehicles and walls tagged with graffiti like “Viv Babecue,” a nod to Jimmy Chérizier, one of Haiti’s most influential gang leaders.

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Residents fortunate enough to escape the onslaught clutched onto fans, stoves, mattresses, and bags filled with clothes as they fled on foot, motorbikes, or vibrant tap-tap buses. Others trudged along empty-handed, having lost everything.

“There were gunshots everywhere,” recalled Paul Pierre, 47, who, along with his partner, was seeking shelter after their home was razed. They couldn’t salvage anything.

He recounted how the night’s chaos separated families, leaving children separated from parents and spouses from each other, as everyone scrambled to save themselves.

Martineda, a woman too scared to reveal her full name, found herself homeless after armed assailants set her house ablaze. She fled with her four-year-old, who tried to flee when the gunfire erupted.

“I told him, ‘Don’t be scared. This is life in Haiti,’” she said, as she balanced a heavy load on her head, including butter she hoped to sell to start anew.

Describing the night’s horrors, she said, “Gunfire, gunfire, gunfire everywhere! No one slept. Everyone was running.”

This assault took place in an area controlled by Chérizier, a former elite cop now leading the powerful gang federation G9 Family and Allies. He and other gang leaders have been blamed for coordinated attacks, including burning police stations and storming prisons, releasing over 4,000 inmates.

These attacks led to Ariel Henry’s resignation as prime minister and the formation of a transitional presidential council. Their recent decision to appoint Fritz Bélizaire, a former sports minister, as the new prime minister has caused tension within the council.

With new leaders grappling for control amid internal strife, Haitians demand safety as gangs continue to wield power, outmatching the national police force in arms.

According to the UN, more than 2,500 people were killed or injured from January to March this year, a 50% surge compared to last year. Over 90,000 people fled Port-au-Prince in just a month as gangs expanded their grip on the capital.

Ernest Aubrey, who moved to Delmas 18 a decade ago, is now leaving for the first time.

“It’s unbearable. We can’t endure this anymore,” he lamented about the gangs. “They’re stripping us of everything we have.”

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