PETIONVILLE, Haiti (AP) — Killings by civilian groups are on the rise in the Haitian capital and surrounding areas, where a mob lynched and set fire to five other men Tuesday, leaving one of the bodies near a barracks. police officer in an upper-class community.
The victims were apparently taken alive from the Jalousie neighborhood on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince and later killed, according to some of those present. Most of the bodies were abandoned along the road leading to the residence of former president Jovenel Moïse, who was assassinated in July 2021. A fifth body was left lying near a police station in the suburb of Petionville.RELATED
“It’s horrible that they are killed in front of the police’s eyes,” said Jean Marc Étienne, who witnessed the scene while sitting in a park in front of the police station. “That shows that no one is safe, that anyone can be killed.”
The Associated Press visited the police headquarters, where authorities declined to comment on what happened. A police spokesman did not return calls seeking comment.
Since last week, at least 18 murders at the hands of civilian groups have been reported in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas, although videos and photographs published on social networks suggest that the number is higher. The footage mainly shows crowds throwing huge stones at the men and setting fire to gasoline-soaked tires that were placed around or on their bodies.
The killings come as some Haitians say they are fed up and upset by the rise in gang violence, with the UN reporting a 20% increase in killings between January and the end of March compared to last. quarter of 2022. In addition, 637 kidnappings have been reported so far this year, an increase of 63% compared to the last three months of 2022.
“The police and justice (officials) have to take control,” Étienne said of the killings by civilians.
In total, more than 130,000 Haitians have fled their communities as gangs storm their homes, set fire to them and kill people in territories controlled by rival gangs.
On Monday, Prime Minister Ariel Henry condemned the killings by civilians and ordered the public to “calm down.”
“The insecurity we live in is appalling,” he commented, adding that the population should not be dragged “into senseless violence.”
Some Haitians have condemned the violence on social media, pointing out that suspected gang members also have a right to live and that they are not in favor of the growing movement of civil groups.
Photos and videos shared on social media show Haitians sharpening their machetes and using large trucks to block entry to their neighborhoods as they vow to drive out the gangs, which the UN says control 80% of Port-au-Prince.
Over the weekend, the Haitian National Police issued a statement saying officers are dismantling gangs that are “terrorizing the civilian population” throughout the country.
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres has called for the immediate deployment of a foreign armed force, a call the UN special envoy for Haiti reiterated last week. It is a request that the Haitian prime minister made for the first time in October, but that the UN Security Council has shown no interest in heeding.
Associated Press writer Dánica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico contributed to this report.