Members of a gang have focused on a crucial area in the capital of Haiti, engaging in a four-day assault that has resulted in residents being stuck in their houses due to burning blockades and continuous gunfire.
On Thursday, loud gunshots were heard in Solino and large plumes of black smoke were seen in the once quiet neighborhood. Panicked residents reached out to radio stations for assistance.
One anonymous caller stated, “We will die today if the police do not arrive!”
According to Pierre Esperance, a member of Human Rights Network RNDDH, approximately 24 deaths have been documented in the community since the weekend.
He stated that the police are not present and there is a lack of physical force from the public. In addition, in other areas, the streets have been blocked as a show of support for Solino.
Lita Saintil, a 52-year-old vendor who sells goods on the street, stated that she witnessed six bodies on the streets as she escaped Solino on Thursday with her teenage nephew.
The houses near hers were set on fire by gangs, and she explained that she was stuck inside her own home for several hours due to continuous gunshots.
She expressed her fear, saying “It’s quite frightening at the moment. I’m not sure of my destination.”
The individuals responsible for the attack were not identified. The community, which houses a large population, was previously plagued by gangs until a UN peacekeeping effort expelled them in the mid-2000s.
The attack may be a significant moment for gangs, as they currently hold power over about 80% of Port-au-Prince. They are believed to be responsible for the deaths of approximately 4,000 individuals and the abduction of another 3,000 in the past year. This has put a strain on the police force in a country with a population of nearly 12 million.
If Solino were to be taken over, gangs would be able to easily enter neighborhoods like Canapé Vert, which have previously been peaceful and relatively secure.
According to Saintil, the current state of Port-au-Prince is chaotic and unexpected.
On Thursday evening, the national police of Haiti issued a statement stating that their officers were sent to Solino in order to capture and detain armed individuals who were trying to create fear among the local people. The police also shared a video lasting three minutes which showed their officers engaged in a shootout with unknown armed individuals on a rooftop in Solino.
On Thursday, neighboring towns started constructing barriers made of rocks, trucks, tires, and even banana trees in order to block gangs from entering.
A man standing near a barrier in Canapé Vert stated that he had been monitoring the demonstrations organized earlier this week by followers of ex-rebel leader Guy Philippe, who has promised a revolution to eliminate gangs.
A man, who chose not to reveal his identity, expressed his thoughts on the current state of Haiti by saying, “It’s further suffering. We are enduring. The nation has been taken over by gangs.”
Fearing that the unrest in Solino could spread to nearby areas, guardians hurried to schools throughout Port-au-Prince to retrieve their kids.
“I am unsure if we will be able to return home,” expressed a mother who chose not to disclose her name due to fear. “There is no available public transportation and there are burning tires scattered around. Our current situation is uncertain.”
Haiti is anticipating the arrival of a foreign military group, headed by Kenya, to assist in suppressing gang-related violence. This deployment was authorized by the UN Security Council in October.
A decision is anticipated from a Kenyan judge on January 26th regarding a current injunction that has halted the deployment.
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