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Overwhelmed Haitian police plead for help as gangs storm main prison to release convicts

The prison holds convicted criminals, including 18 former Colombian soldiers who are accused of assassinating former Haitian President Jovenel Moise.

A demonstrator holds up a Haitian flag during protests demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 1, 2024 [AP}

Haitian Police have issued an urgent appeal for help after gangs stormed the main prison in the country.

Police on the ground noted that they are overwhelmed and it is only a matter of time before powerful gangs access the facility to free up convicted criminals, including 18 former Colombian soldiers who are accused of assassinating former Haitian President Jovenel Moise.

Let us mobilise the army and the police to prevent the bandits from breaking into the prison,” a Haitian police union appealed.

Heavy gunfire was reported across several parts of Part-Au-Prince with the armed groups closing in on the prison that holds some of the most dangerous criminals in the Caribbean nation.

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Haitian media reported that a number of inmates had escaped from the National Penitentiary during the showdown.

Although the exact number remains unclear, Gazette Haiti noted that the number was “significant”.

Heightened violence

Violence scaled up with shortly after Prime Minister Ariel Henry left the country for a series of international engagements including in Nairobi.

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Gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, alias Berbeque vowed to keep fighting Prime Minister Ariel Henry and urging parents not to allow children to go to school to “avoid collateral damages”

“The battle will last as long as it needs to. We will keep fighting Ariel Henry. To avoid collateral damage, keep the kids at home,” the gang leader stated at a press conference.

The Haiti Libre quoted Charizier declaring war and urging Prime Ministerer Henry not to return to the Carribean nation, urging him to stay where he was.

“Today, February 29, 2024 we launch the battle that must overthrow the Prime Minister and his government. This is our first objective. We must stop them and send them to join Ariel where he is so that he never returns to this country” Cherizier stated as reported by The Haiti Libre.

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At the time, Prime Minister was in Nairobi, Kenya where he met President William Ruto where the two leaders discussed plans for Kenya to send 100 police officers to Haiti.

“From Kenya, we are ready for this deployment, and I request all the other partners across the globe to step up so that we can provide a response in good time,” said President Ruto.

“What this mission is bringing is hope for the future of humankind, for a people who cannot see how they will live tomorrow,” the Prime Minister said.

He pledged that his government would accord the Kenyan contingent all the necessary support to make the mission a success.

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