Saturday, April 20, 2024

Haiti:Thousands of prisoners escape from jail

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Authorities have ordered a nighttime curfew in an attempt to regain control of Haiti’s streets after an explosion of violence during the weekend, including gunmen from gangs overrunning the country’s two biggest prisons and freeing their inmates.

A 72-hour state of emergency began Sunday night, and the government said it would set out to find the killers, kidnappers and other violent criminals that it reported escaped from prison.

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

Prime Minister Ariel Henry traveled abroad last week to try to salvage support for bringing in a United Nations-backed security force to help stabilize Haiti in its conflict with increasingly powerful crime groups.

The emergency decree was issued after a deadly weekend that marked a new low in Haiti’s downward spiral of violence. At least nine people had been killed since Thursday — four of them police officers — as gangs stepped up coordinated attacks on state institutions in Port-au-Prince, including the country’s international airport and the national soccer stadium.

But the attack on the National Penitentiary late Saturday was a big shock Haitians, even though they are accustomed to living under the constant threat of violence.

Almost all of the estimated 4,000 inmates escaped, leaving the normally overcrowded prison eerily empty 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.

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

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