US security team in Haiti

An elite 50-member anti-terrorism team from a US Marine base has arrived in violence-torn Haiti later to reinforce security at the US embassy in the capital Port-au-Prince.

    Some 70 people have been killed in Haiti since 5 February

    The 52-strong Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team was dispatched from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to "beef up the security of the US embassy." 

    White House spokesman Scott McClellan said earlier on Monday that the United States sent a 50-person security team to Haiti last week to assess potential risks to its embassy amid widespread anti-government unrest there. 

    "We sent an assessment team to the embassy to look at the security situation," said McClellan, who told reporters that the group left Friday or Saturday. 

    Out of Haiti

    On Saturday, the US State Department ordered non-essential
    diplomatic personnel out of Haiti and warned US citizens that the country was no longer safe. 

    "We continue to be engaged in diplomatic efforts to bring about a peaceful political solution to the crisis in Haiti. We continue to call for an end to violence," said McClellan.

    "It is essential that there will be a peaceful political solution to the crisis in Haiti."

    McClellan added that the United States would turn away any Haitian refugees trying to reach US shores illegally.

    More Red Cross staff

    Also on Monday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it would send reinforcements to Haiti to staff hospitals where incursions by armed insurgents have been reported during the ongoing insurrection. 

    "We are in the process of sending in many more staff", Yves
    Giovannoni, head of ICRC operations for Latin America and the
    Caribbean, said. 

    He said international Red Cross non-local staff, which currently numbers 11, would be doubled. 

    Insurgents have attempted to
    overthrow President Aristide

    Earlier this month, the ICRC said many medical facilities were grinding to a halt in Haiti because staff feared for their own safety, while victims of violence were scared of visiting hospitals and not being cared for. 

    Giovannoni, speaking to journalists after returning from Haiti, said two additional medical teams would be sent to the capital Port-au-Prince and to Gonaives, the northwestern town which has fallen under insurgent control. 

    Some 70 people have been killed since 5 February when rebels launched an insurgency to overthrow President Jean Bertrand
    Aristide. They are now in control of much of Haiti's north and on Sunday captured the Caribbean republic's second city, Cap Haitien. 

    Take over

    "When we got there last week, the hospital was empty, the staff had fled because of insecurity."  

    Yves Giovannoni,
    Head of ICRC operations for Latin America and the Caribbean

    The official said ICRC teams would "take over one ward at one hospital in Port-au-Prince", where the doctors and nurses had fled due to the unrest. 

    "When we got there last week, the hospital was empty, the staff had fled because of insecurity," he said. 

    The hospital would be restaffed with the aid of medical workers from Cuba, he said, adding that "whoever gets wounded will be properly taken care of". 

    Last week a UN humanitarian coordinator said 300 Cuban doctors were working in the country. 

    Giovannoni said the Red Cross planned on contacting the rival
    sides in the Haitian conflict to press for safe conditions for
    emergency medical staff. 

    But he warned that continuing violence could lead to further
    degradation of public services and a mass exodus of refugees toward the neighbouring Dominican Republic. 

     

    SOURCE: AFP


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