(Update 4: adds new info pars 1-6, 8-10, minor edits)
Port-au-Prince, Jul 7 (EFE).- Four suspected killers of President Jovenel Moise were fatally shot by police and two others were arrested Wednesday, according to Haiti’s police chief Léon Charles.
Three police officers who had been held hostage were also released, Charles said alongside Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph and other officials.
The suspects were intercepted by the police after intense gunfights in the Pelerin sector, where Moise’s residence is located, “shortly before 6 am this evening,” according to Secretary of State for Communication Frantz Exantus on Twitter.
Minister of Culture and Communication, Pradel Henríquez, reiterated that the attackers were foreigners who spoke Spanish and English, but did not provide details about their nationality or identity.
Joseph stressed that the country’s security situation is “under control” and that a forensic report was made on Moise’s death and his body was subsequently transferred to a morgue in the capital.
First lady Martine Moise, who was injured in the attack, is “out of danger” after being transferred to a hospital in Miami.
Around 1 am Wednesday, armed assailants broke into the Moise home and opened fire, killing the president and wounding Martine.
Moise’s two children were taken to safe places, according to the Haitian ambassador in Santo Domingo, Smith Augustin.
Numerous shells scattered on the asphalt in front of the residence and bullet holes in the walls and in the vehicles parked there are visible signs of the violence of the assault, about which little is known.
Joseph declared a state of siege and national mourning, both for a period of 15 days, in a televised address after presiding over an extraordinary Cabinet meeting, saying that “all measures have been taken to ensure the continuity of the state.”
The head of government, who is now leading the country, condemned the “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act,” said that Haiti’s National Police and armed forces have the security situation under control and called for calm in the restive Caribbean nation.
The streets of Port-au-Prince were calm and empty after the assassination, with members of the National Police controlling access to the Pelerin 5 neighborhood.
The airport in Port-au-Prince was closed, with flights due to land in the Haitian capital either re-routed elsewhere or canceled, while the Dominican Republic shut its four border crossings with Haiti and also suspended cross-border flights.
Reactions poured in from the international community after Moise’s assassination.
US President Joe Biden condemned the killing as a “heinous act” and a very worrisome sign of the depths of Haiti’s political crisis.
“We are shocked and saddened to hear of the horrific assassination of President Jovenel Moise and the attack on first lady Martine Moise of Haiti,” Biden said. “We stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, for his part, condemned the assassination and issued a call for unity and the preservation of the constitutional order.
In September 2019, thousands took to the streets to call for Moise’s resignation amid widespread corruption, fuel shortages, hunger and insecurity in the impoverished country.
Moise’s assassination came two months before presidential and legislative elections slated for Sept. 26.