State of emergency declared after massive jailbreak in Haiti

Aprilia Rine

State of emergency declared after massive jailbreak in Haiti

Thousands of inmates have been freed from the Caribbean nation’s two largest prisons by an armed gang attack

Haiti’s government has declared a three-day state of emergency and a night-time curfew after armed gangs stormed the Caribbean country’s two biggest jails over the weekend, allowing thousands of prisoners to escape. Gang leaders are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who is on an overseas trip to Kenya.

According to multiple media reports, citing a government statement on Sunday, the stormed prisons are Haiti’s National Penitentiary in the capital of Port-au-Prince and another in nearby Croix-des-Bouquets. Nearly all of the estimated 4,000 inmates at the facility in Port-au-Prince are reported to have escaped. At least 12 people were reportedly killed, including police officers, during the attacks.

Finance Minister Patrick Boisvert, who is in charge of the government while the prime minister is abroad, has called on police to use “all legal means at their disposal” to recapture the prisoners and enforce the curfew.

The latest upsurge in violence started on Thursday, when Prime Minister Henry travelled to Nairobi to try to get a UN-backed security force for combatting gangs in Haiti. Following his departure, a former elite police officer who now runs a gang federation and is nicknamed ‘Barbecue’ announced a coordinated attack to prevent Henry’s return. The gang leader has already claimed responsibility for the surge in violence.

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According to media reports, among those jailed in Port-au-Prince were suspects charged in connection with the 2021 killing of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. Henry took over as prime minister after Moïse’s assassination and has repeatedly postponed plans to hold parliamentary and presidential elections, which have not taken place for nearly a decade.

Statistics show that gangs control up to 80% of the country’s capital. The UN said recently that more than 8,400 people were victims of Haitian gang violence last year, including killings, injuries, and kidnappings. The figure is more than double the numbers seen in 2022.

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