UPDATED 7/7, 9:58 p.m. ET: Haitian law enforcement have reportedly killed four “presumed assassins” of President Jovenel Moïse and arrested two others in the neighborhood of Pétion-Ville. The news was announced just hours after the divisive political leader was gunned down in his home in the region’s upscale Pelerin district.
“Alleged assassins of [Moise] intercepted by the National Police in Pelerin shortly before 6 p.m. tonight,” Communications Secretary Frantz Exantus tweeted.
According to the Associated Press, Haiti’s National Police Chief Léon Charles confirmed three police officers who had been held hostage were also freed Wednesday night. Authorities have yet to publicly identify the suspected assassins; however, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, said the attack “was carried out by foreign mercenaries and professional killers — well-orchestrated.”
The alleged assassins were reportedly heard speaking English and Spanish as they presented themselves as agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Although the U.S. Embassy confirmed the DEA has an office in the Haitian capital, sources say none of the assailants were with the agency.
Moïse’s wife was also wounded during the attack, and has since been transported to Miami for medical treatment. Edmond said the first lady was in stable but critical condition.
President Joe Biden called the assassination a “heinous act” and reassured Haiti the U.S. government was ready to help the nation.
“We are shocked and saddened to hear of the horrific assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and the attack on First Lady Martine Moïse of Haiti,” Biden said in a statement. “We condemn this heinous act, and I am sending my sincere wishes for First Lady Moïse’s recovery. The United States offers condolences to the people of Haiti, and we stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti.”
See the original story below.
Jovenel Moïse, the 42nd president of Haiti, was killed at his home on Wednesday.
In a statement, Claude Joseph—currently the acting president, previously prime minister—called the attack a “hateful, inhumane, and barbaric” act. Per an Associated Press’ report, Joseph also said the country’s “security situation” is under the control of the National Police and Armed Forces.
“Democracy and the republic will win,” he added.
Moïse, 53, was assassinated during an attack on his private residence that also let First Lady Martine Moïse hospitalized. He had served as president since early 2017, after official results of the November 2016 election showed him as the winner. However, those who opposed Moïse had argued that his five-year term should have concluded on Feb. 7 of this year, which marked five years since his predecessor Michel Martelly had stepped down from office.
Moïse’s time as president, as detailed in a separate BBC News report, had seen the Haitian Tèt Kale Party member being met with accusations of corruption. Anti-government protests had also been spurred, including pushes for Moïse to resign. Meanwhile, Moïse had argued that his term still included another year due to the fact that he wasn’t officially in office until February of 2017.
At the time of this writing, further details on the assassination—including who was responsible—remained unclear. Earlier this year, Moïse claimed that an attempt to kill him and overthrow the government had been halted. At the time, at least 23 people were arrested amid protests on the streets of the capital Port-au-Prince and elsewhere.
In recent weeks, thousands of people have been rerouted to have been forced to flee their homes in the region due to violence. Among those killed in a series of attacks in late June was activist Antoinette Duclair and radio personality Diego Charles, the Haiti government said.
Amid demonstrations against the U.S.-backed Moïse in March, a number of celebrities showed their support for the #FreeHaiti movement.