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Suspected gang members ambushed a group of policemen, set their armored vehicle on fire and killed one officer in the latest attack against Haiti’s National Police force, authorities said Thursday.
The attack occurred late Wednesday in the community of Source Matelas, north of the capital of Port-au-Prince, police said.
“This criminal act is beyond reprehensible and will not go unpunished,” Haiti’s National Police said in a statement, adding that officers will not be intimidated.
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A video circulating on social media showed the policeman’s body while alleged gang members mention the name Izo, leader of the “5 Seconds” gang, as one of them posed with the victim.
A Haitian police car is pictured in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on May 9, 2023. Suspected gang members set a Haitian police car on fire leading to the death of an officer north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on May 18, 2023. (Guerinault Louis/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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Gangs are estimated to control up to 80% of the capital and have seized control of communities north of Port-au-Prince that previously were considered safe as they continue to grow more powerful since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
More than 21 police officers were killed in the first three months of the year, according to the U.N. That number has risen, with another three killed in early April as the U.N. chief and others press for the immediate deployment of an international armed force that Haiti’s prime minister requested in October to quell gang violence. But no one has shown any interest in leading such a force.
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Haiti’s National Police is severely understaffed and under resourced, with some 13,200 active-duty officers serving a country of more than 11 million people. The international community has provided police training and equipment including armored vehicles paid for by Haiti’s government, but several of these have been seized by heavily armed gangs.