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Haiti violence: Over 4,000 prisoners flee after armed gangs storm main prison, govt invokes emergency I VIDEO

“The police were ordered to use all legal means at their disposal to enforce the curfew and apprehend all offenders,” said a statement from Finance Minister Patrick Boivert, who is serving as acting prime minister.

Ajeet Kumar Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 Port-au-Prince Updated on: March 04, 2024 13:23 IST
hAITI prisoners escape
Image Source : AP Armed gangs storm Haiti's main prison

Port-au-Prince: Haiti’s government declared a state of emergency and nighttime curfew late Sunday in a bid to regain control of the streets after an explosion of violence over the weekend saw armed gang members storm the country’s two biggest prisons. The 72-hour state of emergency went into immediate effect as the government said it would set out to find the killers, kidnappers and other violent criminals that it reported escaped from the prison.

“The police were ordered to use all legal means at their disposal to enforce the curfew and apprehend all offenders,” said a statement from Finance Minister Patrick Boivert, who is serving as acting prime minister.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry travelled abroad last week to try to salvage support for bringing in a United Nations-backed security force to stabilize the country in its conflict with increasingly powerful crime groups.

VIDEO: 4,000 prisoners flee after armed gangs storm Haiti's main prison

Nine people killed 

The decree capped a deadly weekend that marked a new low in Haiti’s downward spiral of violence. At least nine people had been killed since Thursday — four of them police officers — as gangs stepped up coordinated attacks on state institutions in Port-au-Prince. Targets included police stations, the country’s international airport, and even the national soccer stadium.

But the siege Saturday night of the National Penitentiary came as a shock even to Haitians accustomed to living under the constant threat of violence. Almost all of the estimated 4,000 inmates fled during the jailbreak, leaving the normally overcrowded facility eerily empty Sunday with no guards in sight and plastic sandals, clothing and furniture strewn across the concrete patio. Three bodies with gunshot wounds lay at the prison entrance.
In another neighbourhood, the bloodied corpses of two men with their hands tied behind their backs lay face down as residents walked past roadblocks set up with burning tyres.

Among the few dozen that chose to stay in the prison are 18 former Colombian soldiers accused of working as mercenaries in the July 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise.

“Please, please help us"

Amid the clashes Saturday night, several of the Colombians shared a video pleading for their lives. “Please, please help us,” one of the men, Francisco Uribe, said in the message widely shared on social media. “They are massacring people indiscriminately inside the cells.”

On Sunday, Uribe told journalists who walked breezily into the normally highly guarded facility, “I didn’t flee because I’m innocent.” Colombia’s foreign ministry called on Haiti to provide “special protection” for the men.
In the absence of official information, inmates’ family members rushed to the prison to check on loved ones. “I don’t know whether my son is alive or not,” said Alexandre Jean as she roamed around the cells looking for any sign of him. “I don’t know what to do.”

(With inputs from agency)

Also Read: Heavy rains cause widespread flooding in Haiti, 15 dead, 8 missing

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