Haiti President Jovenel Moise was assassinated and his wife wounded in an attack at their home, the interim prime minister announced.
A group of unidentified gunmen attacked Moise’s private residence overnight on Wednesday and shot him dead, interim Premier Claude Joseph said.
Joseph said he was now in charge of the country and urged the public to remain calm while insisting the police and army would ensure people’s security.
Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, was already in a precarious political situation before the assassination, having grown increasingly unstable and disgruntled under Moise.
Moise, who was 53, ruled by decree for more than two years after the country failed to hold elections and the opposition demanded his resignation in recent months.
The assassination risks further destabilising the Caribbean nation.
Here are the latest updates:
Hunt for Moise’s killers continues
The hunt for the armed assassins who killed Haiti President Jovenel Moise and wounded his wife Martine in their home continued on Wednesday.
A short clip of a video purporting to show armed men in pick-up trucks at the president’s home in the aftermath of the attack was posted on social media but could not be immediately verified.
Neighbouring Dominican Republic closed its land border with Haiti after the attack and Haiti officials asked for international help to search for assailants who may have escaped by sea.
Injured wife of President Moise flown to Florida for medical care
Haiti first lady Martine Moise, who was wounded in the attack, was flown out of the country on Wednesday afternoon and her air ambulance has landed in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, according to a Miami Herald report.
She is said to be in stable but critical condition after surviving the shooting that killed Haiti President Jovenel Moise in their private home in Port-au-Prince in the early morning around 1am local time (GMT 05:00).
US says elections in Haiti should move forward
The United States said elections scheduled for later this year should go forward to provide a path forward for Haiti after President Jovenel Moise’s assassination.
“It is still the view of the United States that elections this year should proceed,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, saying that a fair vote would “facilitate a peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected president”.
Price said the US believed that “President Moise’s term was to end next year” while the president’s opponents had contended, he finished his time in office earlier this year.
Presidential and legislative elections were to be held on September 26, with a second round to be held on November 21, according to Agence France-Presse.
The United States calls on all political parties, civil society groups, and stakeholders to echo Acting Prime Minister @claudejoseph03’s call for calm and to work together in the wake of this tragedy to ensure peace and democratic governance in Haiti. https://t.co/nwP9Fivy2k
— Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) July 7, 2021
Gang violence had risen in Haiti before Moise killing: UN
Gang violence had spiked in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince in recent weeks to “unprecedented levels” according to the UN as rival groups battled with one another and police for control of the streets, displacing thousands and worsening the country’s humanitarian crisis.
Jimmy Cherizier, alias Barbecue, a former police officer who headed the so-called “G9” federation of nine gangs formed last year, said he was launching a revolution against Haiti’s business and political elites, the Reuters news service had reported in June.
Human rights activists said Cherizier is actually not targeting the government but the opposition.
Haiti political opposition calls Moise killing a ‘heinous crime’, calls for ‘vigilance’
Haiti’s main political opposition parties said in a joint statement they were greatly dismayed by the assassination of Haiti President Jovenel Moise.
“In this painful circumstance, the political forces of the opposition condemn with utmost rigor this heinous crime that is at odds with democratic principles,” their statement posted on Twitter.
The parties added that they hope the Haiti National Police will take all necessary measures to protect lives and property, and they called for “de-escalation” and for Haitians to be “extremely vigilant”.
“The time has come for us to band together to find a way to give the country an opportunity to breathe,” said Nou Pap Domi, a Haitian social movement that has been demanding accountability for a wave of murders in Haiti.
US will act to preserve Haiti’s democratic institutions: State Department
The United States will preserve Haiti’s democratic institutions following the assassination of Haiti President Jovenel Moise by armed men who assaulted his home overnight in Port-au-Prince.
“We don’t have any updates to announce in terms of our assistance, but I can assure you that our partnership with the Haitian people, and with their elected government, will continue,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told a media briefing in Washington, DC.
US officials have been in “regular contact” with Haitian officials throughout the day, Price said. “We are prepared to receive additional requests from Haitian authorities.”
In January, the US had announced USD $75.5m in aid to Haiti, Price said.
State of emergency extended for 15 days across Haiti
The state of emergency will last for 15 days across the country, read a special notice in Haiti’s official gazette on Wednesday.
The gazette said preliminary information indicates the assassination of President Jovenel Moise was carried out by a group of foreign gunmen.
In another notice, Haiti’s council of ministers announced the country would observe several national days of mourning, from Thursday until July 22.
Moise had pushed for a new constitution in Haiti
Haiti President Jovenel Moise had pushed for revisions to Haiti’s constitution that would streamline Haiti’s divided government by eliminating the position of prime minister and consolidate the Senate into a single legislative body.
“We need a system that works,” Moise, who had been ruling Haiti by decree since 2020 after legislative elections were cancelled in 2018, had told the New York Times in a telephone interview in March.
“The system now doesn’t work. The president cannot work to deliver,” Moise had said, the NYT reported.
The Biden administration had opposed changes to the constitution and urged Moise to set a date for new elections. A constitutional referendum set for June 27 was cancelled last month due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
UN Security Council to meet on Haiti
The United Nations Security Council will meet on July 8 to address the assassination of Haiti President Jovenel Moise.
“We’re very concerned about the risk for violence, and that’s why it’s important for all political actors in Haiti to reject violence, and to ensure that they put the interest of the Haitian people as a whole before any other personal interests,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told Al Jazeera.
“It’s really a shocking development,” said Irish UN Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason in New York. “You can be sure Haiti is an issue the council already deals with that we will continue to support the people of Haiti. This is a critical moment.”
Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph had urged the Security Council to meet as soon as possible and called on the “international community to launch an investigation into the assassination”.
Gunmen claimed falsely to be US DEA agents: envoy
Gunmen who assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moise falsely identified themselves as agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Haitian ambassador to the United States said on Wednesday
“No way they were DEA agents,” Bocchit Edmond told the Reuters news service in an interview citing video footage the government has in its possession.
Edmond said he had asked US officials to provide security assistance, training and equipment to help strengthen the national police, amid fears of a breakdown in order in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
US must ‘step up’ to support democracy in Haiti: Miami Herald
The editorial board of the US’s Miami Herald newspaper called for a more proactive United States policy towards Haiti following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise.
“We don’t yet know what the full ramifications of this assassination will be. We don’t know in what direction the country will go nor exactly what the US role will need to be,” the Miami newspaper said.
“But there is no doubt, as we wait to learn more, that this horrific execution of the president of Haiti means the US must step up, clearly and strongly, to back democracy in that tortured nation.”
Miami is home to a large population of Haitians and the news of the bloodshed was “cataclysmic”, the newspaper said.
US White House is assessing ‘developing’ situation in Haiti, ready to help
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the US government is monitoring the situation in Haiti and would respond to any requests for assistance following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise’s after weeks of escalating gang violence.
“We’re certainly in touch but obviously this is still developing and so we’ll assess what their needs are. We are ready to provide and respond to whatever their needs are,” Psaki told reporters travelling with President Joe Biden on Air Force One.
Haiti’s first lady in critical condition, to be brought to Miami: Haitian envoy
Haiti’s first lady, Martine Moise, who survived the attack that killed President Jovenel Moise, was in critical condition and efforts were under way to bring her to Miami for treatment, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States said.
“She’s stable but in critical condition,” Ambassador Bocchit Edmond told reporters in a virtual event, hours after gunmen shot dead Moise and wounded his wife at their private residence overnight.
“Efforts are being done now to take her to Miami to be treated,” he said.
Haiti ambassador says Moise assailants were ‘professional’
Bocchit Edmond, the Haitian ambassador to the US, described the attackers as “well-trained professional commandos” and “foreign mercenaries” but he did not comment on possible suspects or motives.
Details of the attack are continuing to emerge. Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said earlier that highly trained gunmen, some speaking Spanish or English, had killed the president at his home. The first lady also was shot and wounded.
A resident who lives near the president’s home compared the sound of the shooting to an earthquake, the AP reported.
World reacts to ‘horrific’ assassination of Haiti’s president
World leaders have reacted with shock and revulsion to the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the “perpetrators of this crime”, and Colombia President Ivan Duque called for an urgent mission to Haiti to “protect the democratic order” as nations expressed condolences. Read more.
Streets of Port-au-Prince quiet: Al Jazeera
The streets of Port-au-Prince are mostly empty and few vehicles are moving around following the assassination overnight of Haitian President Jovenel Moise.
People have hunkered down after the shock of the assassination of the president, reported Al Jazeera contributor Harold Isaac, in the Haitian capital.
People are unclear about what to expect next because the killing of Moise deepens the country’s political and constitutional crises.
“It’s an unbelievable situation, because it was known the president was heavily protected, so it’s unthinkable that this could happen,” Isaac said.
PAHO director says violence challenging the response to pandemic
Director of the Pan American Health Organization Carissa Etienne extended her condolences to Moise’s family and pledged to reinforce her organisation’s work in Haiti.
“Our organisation has a long history of working in Haiti, hand in hand with local authorities, health professionals, and communities through our local office in Port-au-Prince,” Etienne said during a news briefing.
“We continue to stand with them now and will redouble our efforts.”
Etienne stressed the latest escalation in violence puts at risk the response to the pandemic. Haiti has not yet received vaccines.
“I am hopeful that the imminent arrival of vaccines in the country can start to turn the tide of the pandemic and bring some relief to the Haitian people during these very difficult times,” Etienne said.
Assassination comes amid weeks of increasing gang violence
President Jovenel Moise’s assassination comes amid weeks of escalating gang violence in Port-au-Prince.
Last week, journalist Diego Charles and political activist Antoinette Duclair were fatally shot in the streets of the Haitian capital. Thousands of Haitians have been displaced due to the violence. Read more.
‘The international community must take decisive action’: HRW
Executive Director of the US-based Human Rights Watch Jose Miguel Vivanco condemned the killing and called on the international community to do more to put an end to the violence in Haiti.
“The international community must take decisive action to help stop the escalation of violence and find democratic solutions to the institutional crisis in the country,” Vivanco said in a tweet.
US President Biden says assassination ‘very worrisome’
United States President Joe Biden told reporters travelling with him on Wednesday the assassination of Haiti President Jovenel Moise overnight was “very worrisome about the state of Haiti”.
“We need a lot more information,” Biden said.
“We are shocked and saddened to hear of the horrific assassination of President Jovenel Moise,” Biden said in a separate statement issued by the White House.
“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.”
Assassination a ‘hard blow’ to Haitian democracy, former president says
Former Haiti President Michel Joseph Martelly in a tweet called the “cruel assassination” of President Jovenel Moise by armed gunman a “hard blow for our country and for Haitian democracy which is struggling to find its way”.
A musician and politician, Martelly was president of Haiti from 2011 to 2016.
US embassy in Haiti closed due to ‘security situation’
The US embassy said in a statement it would be closed on Wednesday due to the “ongoing security situation”.
The US State Department had issued a “do not travel” warning to US citizens for Haiti on June 16 because of the risk of kidnapping, crime and civil unrest.
“US government personnel are discouraged from walking in Port-au-Prince and other neighbourhoods,” the advisory said.
Prime minister declares nationwide ‘state of emergency’
Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph declared a state of emergency amid confusion over who would take over the reins of the country.
“My compatriots, remain calm because the situation is under control,” Joseph said in televised remarks after chairing a cabinet meeting.
Haitian streets will be ‘very hot’ following assassination
Journalist Kim Ives, an editor with the newspaper Haiti Liberte, said the Caribbean nation now faces a volatile situation following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise by armed men who attacked his home overnight.
“I imagine now the US, which holds the predominant weight in Haiti, will try to bring about some kind of transitional government,” Ives told Al Jazeera in a television interview.
“The streets, though, are going to be very hot. There are armed neighbourhood organisations … which have called for a revolution against the system in Haiti.”
The attack appeared to have been planned and “well funded”, Ives said.
“They had nine new Nissan pick-up trucks. They knew the layout of the president’s house. They had inside information, clearly.”
Haiti’s Port-au-Prince Toussaint Louverture airport closed
All flights in and out of Haiti’s main airport in the capital Port-au-Prince have been cancelled or delayed until further notice, according to Sunrise airways which uses the airport as a hub.
The move is “due to the current situation in Haiti” and “in order to protect staff, passengers and equipments [sic]” the airline’s website said.
Flight booking sites did not show any available flights into or out of the airport for Wednesday.
OAS condemns ‘criminal act’
The Organization of American States condemned the assassination of Haiti President Jovenel Moise in a statement issued by its communications department in Washington.
“This attack is an affront to the entire community of democratic nations represented in the OAS,” the statement said.
“Political assassinations have no place in a democracy,” the OAS said.
Dominican Republic closes Haiti border after assassination
The government of the neighbouring Dominican Republic has ordered the “immediate closure” of its border with Haiti after the assassination of Moise.
The border closure was effective immediately, the communications officer of the defence ministry, Ceinett Sanchez, told the AFP news agency.
Colombia urges OAS to send mission to Haiti
Colombian President Ivan Duque called on the Organization of American States to send an urgent mission to Haiti to “protect the democratic order” after President Jovenel Moise was assassinated overnight.
“We reject the vile assassination of the Haitian President Jovenel Moise,” Duque wrote on Twitter. “It is a cowardly act full of barbarity against the entire Haitian people.”
US condemns ‘horrific’ killing
The United States condemned the killing as “horrific” and said it was ready to assist in any investigation.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said “we will be helpful in any way to the people of Haiti, to the government of Haiti”, adding that President Joe Biden would be briefed on the incident shortly.