Armed gangs kill 12 in Haiti as public security crisis deepens

Gangs that control much of Haiti have been targeting city of Cabaret for months, displacing thousands of people.

People displaced by gang war violence in Cite Soleil walk on the streets of Delmas neighborhood after leaving Hugo Chaves square in Port-au-Prince, Haiti November 19, 2022. REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol
People displaced by gang warfare in Cite Soleil walk on a road near Port-au-Prince, Haiti [File: Ralph Tedy Erol/Reuters]

Gang members have killed at least 12 people and burned down houses in a town near the capital of Haiti, according to the mayor.

Joseph Jeanson Guillaume on Wednesday said police and residents forced gangsters out from the town of Cabaret, north of capital Port-au-Prince, several days ago but they returned and attacked.

“This morning we found several charred bodies,” Guillaume said.

Much of Haiti is controlled by powerful gangs that have been targeting Cabaret for months.

The attacks on the town disrupt traffic and trade as it sits along a major road, the mayor said.

In July 2021, President Jovenel Moise was assassinated which exacerbated political instability and a continuing economic crisis.

The volatility led to gangs taking more control and becoming more powerful, while thousands of people have fled the country.

The police force had 13,000 officers as of September, according to the United Nations, meaning the police are outnumbered – one for every 1,000 people.

“Nearly 96,000 people have been displaced by gangs in the capital alone,” Al Jazeera’s Prue Lewarne reported from Port-Au-Prince.

The displaced residents of the Cite Soleil neighbourhood in the capital said they did not have water, food or a place to sleep. According to the UN, about 19,000 residents of Cite Soleil face catastrophic hunger, Lewarne said.

The UN’s resident and humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, Ulrika Richardson, has said that 195 murders were recorded in October – about three per day – along with 102 kidnappings.

Armed gangs that control approximately 60 percent of the territory in Port-au-Prince are using “sexual violence, including rape … to instil fear and to punish and to terrorise the local populations”, Richardson has said.

In October, UN officials reported that gangsters blockading a major fuel terminal in Haiti were causing catastrophic hunger on the island, with more than four million people facing severe insecurity and more than 19,000 others suffering from famine.

Haiti in October formally requested international assistance to help it regain control but nothing has come of the appeal.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies