Haiti's President Jovenel Moise was shot dead in an attack at his private residence in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday (July 7).
Haitian police chief Léon Charles said the police killed four suspects in a tense hostage situation, arrested two others and authorities are still pursuing some suspects.
Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, said the attack “was carried out by foreign mercenaries and professional killers — well-orchestrated.” Haiti has asked the U.S. government for assistance with the investigation, the ambassador added.
The news of Moise’s assassination rocked the poorest nation in the Americas. Officials declared a two-week state of emergency and closed the international airport. Haiti's neighbor, the Dominican Republic said it was closing the border and reinforcing security in the area.
World leaders condemned the assassination of Haiti's head of state. “We condemn this heinous act,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement. “We stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti.”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed that “the perpetrators of this crime must be brought to justice,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Even before President Moise’s killing, the situation in Haiti, a nation of about 11 million people, was marked by a growing humanitarian crisis, and political instability. Protesters took to the streets to demand Moise’s removal, with many arguing that his term had expired.
In office since 2017, Moise, 53, a former banana exporter, had six prime ministers. A day before he was killed, he had nominated a seventh, Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon.
The assassination leaves a huge power vacuum in Haiti. Its parliament is effectively defunct and two men are simultaneously claiming to be the country's rightful prime minister.
In May, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced an 18-month extension of temporary legal status for Haitians living in the U.S., citing “serious security concerns (in Haiti), social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources, which are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
A group of 28 foreign mercenaries assassinated Moise, police said. After a gun battle in the capital, 17 were detained and a mass, countrywide manhunt is underway for at least eight additional suspects. It is still unclear who organized the attack and with what motive. It is the first assassination of a serving president in the Americas since John F Kennedy’s 1963 shooting.
Police in Haiti said the assassination was carried out by a commando unit of 26 Colombian and two Haitian-American mercenaries. The two Haitian-Americans were identified as James Solages, 35, and Joseph Vincent, 55, both from Florida.
With reporting by AP, CNN, BBC