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Haiti declares state of emergency after double jailbreak allows thousands of inmates to escape

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Haiti declares state of emergency after double jailbreak allows thousands of inmates to escape

Haiti’s government has declared a state of emergency and a night-time curfew in a bid to regain control of the streets after an explosion of violence over the weekend saw armed gang members storm the country’s two biggest prisons, with thousands of inmates escaping.

The 72-hour state of emergency went into immediate effect as the government said it would set out to find the killers, kidnappers and other violent criminals it believed had escaped.

“The police were ordered to use all legal means at their disposal to enforce the curfew and apprehend all offenders,” finance minister Patrick Boivert, who is serving as acting prime minister, said in a statement.

The decree capped a deadly weekend that marked a new low in Haiti’s downward spiral of violence. It began on Thursday as gangs stepped up coordinated attacks in Port-au-Prince while embattled prime minister Ariel Henry is abroad trying to salvage support for a UN-backed security force to stabilise the country.

Jimmy Chérizier, a former elite police officer known as Barbecue who now runs a gang federation, has claimed responsibility for the surge in attacks. He said the goal was to capture Haiti’s police chief and government ministers and prevent Henry’s return. At least nine people had been killed since Thursday – four of them police officers. Targets have included police stations, the country’s international airport, even the national soccer stadium, where one employee was held hostage for hours.

But the siege on Saturday night of the National Penitentiary came as a shock even to Haitians accustomed to living under the constant threat of violence.

Almost all of the estimated 4,000 inmates fled during the jailbreak, leaving the normally overcrowded facility empty on Sunday with no guards in sight and plastic sandals, clothing and furniture strewn across the concrete patio. Three bodies with gunshot wounds lay at the prison entrance. A second Port-au-Prince prison containing about 1,400 inmates was also overrun.

In another neighbourhood, the bloodied corpses of two men with their hands tied behind their backs laid face down as residents walked past roadblocks set up with burning tires.

It was unclear how many inmates were on the run but Arnel Remy, a human rights attorney whose nonprofit works inside the National Penitentiary, said on X that fewer than 100 of the nearly 4,000 inmates remained behind bars. (The Guardian)

 

 

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