Haiti in state of emergency after thousands of violent criminals escape prison

Haiti's government issued a 72-hour state of emergency Sunday night as well as a curfew after a weekend of violence during which gunmen from gangs took over 2 of the biggest prisons in the country and helped thousands of inmates escape.

“The police were ordered to use all legal means at their disposal to enforce the curfew and apprehend all offenders,” said Finance Minister Patrick Boisvert, who is serving as acting prime minister as Prime Minister Ariel Henry was abroad in Kenya last week securing a deal for a United Nations-backed security force for his country.

AP News reports that at least 9 people, 4 of whom were police officers, were killed over the weekend as Haiti's most violent gangs conducted coordinated attacks in Port-au-Prince. The country's international airport, Central Bank, and even its national soccer stadium, where one employee was held hostage for hours, were targeted.

The attack on the National Penitentiary on Saturday was the most devastating, resulting in almost all of the 4,000 incarcerated inmates being set free to wreak havoc in the streets.

The few dozen inmates who chose to stay back released videos pleading for their lives.

“Please, please help us. They are massacring people indiscriminately inside the cells,” said Francisco Uribe on social media.

Uribe is one of 18 former Colombian soldiers accused of orchestrating the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise in July 2021. He told journalists who visited the prison in the aftermath on Sunday, "I didn’t flee because I’m innocent."

Three bodies with gunshot wounds reportedly were left at the prison entrance.

A second Port-au-Prince prison containing around 1,400 inmates was also overrun.

Citizens of Haiti have long been subjected to terror and violence from the country's gangs, however, this past weekend proved to be one of the most devastating in a long while. Gunfire rang out through residential neighborhoods and the country's top mobile network's fiber optic cable connection was reportedly slashed in the mayhem, leaving many without internet service.

These attacks follow months of violent protests calling for Henry's resignation. The prime minister has postponed elections which haven't happened in almost a decade.

Currently, Haiti's National Police is comprised of around 9,000 officers tasked with maintaining order and providing security for the country of over 11 million people. Gangs are estimated to control up to 80 percent of Port-au-Prince.

Former elite police officer-turned-gang-boss Jimmy Cherizier, aka "Barbecue," has claimed responsibility for the targeted attacks, saying that his goal is to capture the country's police chief and government officials and prevent Henry from returning from Kenya.
 

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