Neighbours of assassinated Haitian president 'heard gunshots for two hours'

·3-min read

Haitian president Jovenel Moïse was assassinated the night of July 6 in his home in the Pèlerin 5 neighbourhood in Pétionville. A video posted online the morning of July 7 shows several armed men near his home. A neighbour living just 300 metres from the president’s home said that the gunfire began shortly after midnight and continued until 2 a.m.

The video, which is 27 seconds long, shows five armed men advancing slowly towards the gate of a home, using a flashlight to light the way.

One of the men has a gun that strongly resembles an AK-47 assault rifle.

You can hear the voices of two men speaking in the video, who seem to be positioned near the camera.

“C’est parti,” they say, a French phrase indicating that something has begun.

A wall covered by graffiti appears in the last seconds of the video – a tiny detail that provides proof the video was filmed near Moïse’s home. The graffiti on the wall contains the words "team" and "jove..."

The same graffiti-covered wall appears in videos of numerous protests held in front of Moïse’s home, located in the south of Pétionville, a few dozen metres from a police station.

Using this video alone, it is not possible to determine whether these men are the assassins or part of the police forces that were eventually deployed to the scene to arrest them.

There have been no other armed attacks reported in the vicinity of the president's home since he was elected in 2017.

The initial footage also shows a white car in the centre. The next day, a video filmed at the scene of the attack showed a white car of the same make and model riddled with bullets.

These visual clues make it very likely that the video does indeed show the attack on the president’s home on July 6.

'The shooting lasted about two hours'

Our Observer Niepce Zéphirin lives just 300 metres from Moïse’s residence. He heard the attack as it happened.

We started hearing gunshots at around midnight or 12:30. Everyone at home was shocked. I’d say the shooting lasted about two hours. Since then, we’ve stayed indoors. We have no idea how the situation will evolve. I just saw armoured police vehicles drive down the street.

The social and political situation in Haiti has become increasingly fraught over the past few months. For around a month, gangs have blocked the southern entrance to the capital, Port-au-Prince. The gangs have been gaining ground and spreading fear and chaos. The government has been weakened and I’m afraid that this assassination will just make the situation worse.

Other videos were also circulating widely on social media Wednesday. In several, you can hear the voice of a man speaking into a megaphone with an American accent. He also speaks in Spanish.

"DEA operation. Everybody stand down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down," the man says, referring to the DEA, the US Drug Enforcement Administration, a body aimed at stopping illegal drug trafficking. The videos are too dark to confirm the location where they were filmed. In one of them, a gunshot can be heard.

Witnesses interviewed by the Guardian and the Miami Herald mentioned hearing men claiming they were DEA agents, as did our Observer:

We also heard men speaking on a megaphone. They said they were DEA agents. I heard them speaking English and Creole.

According to an anonymous government source cited by the Miami Herald, the men who carried out this attack were actually mercenaries.

Prime Minister (now Interim President) Claude Joseph confirmed that the men who attacked the presidential residence spoke "English and Spanish."

A number of gangs currently operate with near impunity in Haiti. President Moïse had been criticised for his failure to secure the country.

The president’s wife, Martine Moïse, sustained gunshot wounds during the attack and has been hospitalised.

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