PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – A shooting rampage down a main street running through a neighborhood in Haiti’s capital killed at least 15 people, including a journalist and a political activist, national Police Chief Leon Charles said Wednesday.
He said the attack late Tuesday was still under investigation and gave no details on whether it was staged by a single person or multiple shooters. Bodies were found scattered on sidewalks along a main road in Delmas 32, which is a bustling community within Port-au-Prince.
Charles said the shootings occurred just hours after a spokesman for a group of disgruntled police officers known as Fantom 509 was slain in that same area. He blamed allies of Fantom 509 for the mass killing but did not provide any evidence.
“The institution cannot tolerate these acts of reprisal in any form,” said Charles, who heads Haiti’s National Police.
Members of Fantom 509 could not be immediately reached for comment.
The dead included Diego Charles, who worked for Radio Vision 2000, and activist Antoinette Duclaire.
The killings shocked many in Haiti and come as gang violence escalates elsewhere in the capital in recent months.
The U.S. Embassy condemned the slayings in a statement, saying it was “deeply concerned by the loss of life and general insecurity.”
“The United States urges the government of Haiti to protect its citizens by countering the proliferation of gangs and by holding the perpetrators of violence and their accomplices accountable,” the embassy said.
US Condemns Violence, Human Rights Violations
PORT-AU-PRINCE, June 30 (Reuters) – The United States on Wednesday condemned what it described as a systematic violation of human rights, fundamental freedoms and attacks on the press in Haiti, urging the government to counter a proliferation of gangs and violence.
Violence has spiked in the impoverished Caribbean nation as rival gangs battle with one another and the police for control of the streets, displacing thousands and worsening a humanitarian crisis.
On Tuesday night, at least 15 people were killed in apparent retaliation for the murder of police union member Guerby Geffrard, said Leon Charles, director general of the national police force, at a news conference. Among those killed were two journalists.
“The United States is deeply concerned by the loss of life and general insecurity as a result of gang-related violence,” the U.S. embassy in Haiti said on Twitter.
“Violence, corruption and impunity have impeded Haiti’s development goals and the Haitian people’s aspirations for a better life for too long.”
Armed groups have become increasingly powerful in Haiti in recent years because of political unrest, growing poverty and a sense of impunity, rights organizations like the nonprofit Center for Human Rights Analysis and Research have said.
Elections slated for September could be a factor for the recent uptick in violence against police, which is not equipped to deal with gang members who have acquired ever more sophisticated weapons.