Gangs storm prison in Haiti and free thousands of prisoners

Armed gangs stormed the national prison on Saturday evening to free prisoners.

Gangs storm prison in Haiti and free thousands of prisoners

Armed gangs stormed the national prison on Saturday evening to free prisoners. The government of the impoverished and violence-torn Caribbean nation said security forces tried to repel the attack.

On the online service X, formerly Twitter, the Haitian police union called on all police and military personnel with access to cars, weapons and ammunition to strengthen the security forces in the prison. The French embassy “advised against all travel to the greater Port-au-Prince area” until the situation has been clarified.

According to human rights representative Espérance, thousands of prisoners were able to escape. According to him, around 3,800 prisoners were incarcerated in the national prison before the attack. On Sunday there were only around a hundred left. The AFP reporter on site said he was able to enter the prison and that the gate was "open". The prison was almost empty.

According to the online media “Gazette Haiti,” a large number of the released prison inmates are “important members of very powerful gangs.” As the newspaper "Le Nouvelliste" reported, the national prison also held well-known gang members who are accused of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. In addition to the national prison, another detention center was also attacked.

The latest attacks appear to be part of a coordinated effort by criminal gangs who have banded together under the name "Vivre Ensemble" ("Living Together"). The violence began on Thursday. Powerful gang leader Jimmy "Barbecue" Chérisier said in a video posted on online networks that the joint actions of rival armed groups were aimed at the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

The Caribbean state of Haiti has been in a serious crisis for years, to which not only gang violence but also political instability and economic hardship are contributing. According to the UN, the number of people in the country in need of humanitarian aid has doubled in the last five years alone. The assassination of President Moïse in 2021 dramatically worsened the security situation: according to the UN, more than 1,100 people were killed, injured or kidnapped in Haiti in the month of January alone.

There have been no elections in the Caribbean country since 2016. The post of president remains vacant. Just two days ago, Haiti's Prime Minister Henry signed an agreement with Kenya's President William Ruto on the deployment of Kenyan police forces in Haiti. Kenya had agreed to lead a multinational response force approved by the UN Security Council to stabilize the situation in Haiti. Nairobi wants to send a thousand security forces for this purpose.

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