Assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moise: what we know

·3-min read
Haitian police and forensics teams look for evidence outside the presidential residence following the assassination of president Jovenel Moise

The assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moise has plunged the impoverished Caribbean nation into crisis.

Here's what we know about the attack:

- The assassination -

Early Wednesday, around 1:00 am local time, gunmen attacked Moise's heavily guarded private residence in the capital Port-au-Prince.

Moise was shot dead and his wife, Martine, critically wounded. She was rushed to a local hospital and later evacuated to Miami for treatment.

Magistrate Carl Henry Destin told the Nouvelliste newspaper that Moise had been shot 12 times and his office and bedroom ransacked.

The motive and identities of the assailants are unknown.

A businessman, Moise, 53, was elected president of Haiti in 2016 on a pledge to boost the economy of the poorest country in the Americas.

He took office on February 7, 2017 but has presided over a deteriorating political and security situation with gangs running rampant and constant political tensions.

The end date of Moise's mandate had been in dispute with the late president maintaining that his term of office ran until February 7, 2022, but others saying it ended on February 7, 2021.

- The assailants -

Haiti's interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said the assassination was carried out by "foreigners who spoke English and Spanish."

Haiti's ambassador to Washington, Bocchit Edmond, said the killers were "professional" mercenaries disguised as US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents.

Haiti's police chief Leon Charles said the security forces engaged the suspected assailants in a gun battle on Wednesday.

Four gunmen were killed by police and two suspects taken into custody, while other members of the hit squad are at large, Charles said.

- State of siege -

Joseph, the interim prime minister, declared a "state of siege" in the country, giving himself increased powers for a 15-day period.

Moise had been governing by decree, without a parliament, since January 2020 and had named a new prime minister, Ariel Henry, on Monday, just two days before his death.

Henry, who had not yet assumed his duties, was the seventh prime minister named by Moise in four years and is claiming that he -- not Joseph -- is the rightful premier.

In addition to political instability, Haiti has been gripped recently by an increase in gang violence including kidnappings for ransom.

Since June, clashes between rival gangs in the western part of Port-au-Prince have paralyzed traffic between the southern part of the country and Haitian capital.

On June 30, 15 people died in a gun battle in the city including a journalist and an opposition activist.

- International concern -

The assassination of the Haitian president has left the international community pondering the future of a country plagued by political instability, poverty and natural disasters.

Fearing further unrest, the UN Security Council, the United States and European nations called for legislative and presidential elections to be held as scheduled on September 26.

A constitutional referendum was also planned for September 26. It had been initially scheduled for June 27 but was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The international airport in Port-au-Prince was closed to prevent the assailants from fleeing the country.

The neighboring Dominican Republic shut its border with Haiti and stepped up security along the frontier.

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