Armed Gangs Take Over Haiti’s Capital, State of Emergency Declared

( – Haiti has been under siege by armed criminal gangs who now have operational control of 80% of the capital, according to UN officials. The gangs have unleashed terror across the small island nation, attacking prison facilities and an airport, according to reports.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry traveled to Kenya to seek help from a UN-deployed police force. The Security Council voted on March 4th to send a Kenyan-led force to fight the gangs, marking the first time in nearly 20 years that an external military force was sent to the tiny island to help restore order and the rule of law.

The resolution authorized the deployment for one year with a review after nine months. The U.S. contributed $200 million to the initiative. Henry sought immediate aid, including armed military help, to combat the violence and facilitate long-delayed elections. The government of Haiti only has 10,000 active-duty police to manage a population of 11 million.

National Police Director Frantz Elbé told Radio Caraïbes that the violence was completely overwhelming his officers. He described the city as “at war.”

Gang elements have expressed their intention to overthrow the government and remove Henry. He’s been acting as the prime minister since a July 2021 assassination left the country without a president. President Jovenel Moïse’s murder left Henry in charge, but the unstable nature of the country and its unruly gangs have prevented any elections. Henry promised to run elections in 2025, triggering the latest round of escalated violence.

Armed attackers raided two prison facilities in the capital of Port-au-Prince on March 2nd, releasing 4,700 prisoners and killing multiple guards.

Authorities believe Jimmy Chérizier is behind the attacks, he’s a former high-level police officer who goes by the criminal nickname “Barbecue.” There are multiple gangs involved, however, and their alliances are fickle. Chérizier has vowed to fight any international force that comes to Haiti.

Gangs are incredibly common in Haiti with estimates suggesting at least 200 different criminal organizations exist across the entire island nation. Those same estimates suggest that 23 large organizations exist in Port-au-Prince and controlled large swaths of the city before the recent outbreak of violence.

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