Gunmen dressed as cops massacred civilians in Haiti
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — When a police truck carrying men in uniform pulled into an impoverished neighbourhood in the Haitian capital, residents thought it was an official operation.
Maybe police were finally trying to head off a war between the gangs that run protection rackets in the market next to the sprawling collection of cinderblock shacks and low-rise public housing.
Then the men opened fire.
Joined by local gang members clad in black, they went house to house with long guns and machetes, pulling unarmed people into the narrow alleys and killing them with single shots or machete blows, witnesses told The Associated Press.
“When I saw them I thought they were providing security but then I realised they were shooting at the population,” said 55-year-old resident Marie-Lourdes Corestan.
“They were shooting, and I was running to save my life.”
Witnesses, a human-rights group and a Catholic charity that collected bodies after the November 13 massacre told The Associated Press that at least 21 men were slain over a 24-hour period in the La Saline neighbourhood.
Some residents and local rights groups say the killers were gang members working with corrupt police to seize territory in the La Saline gang war.
But others accuse Haitian government officials of orchestrating the massacre to head off anti-corruption protests that often start in the neighbourhood, an opposition stronghold.
National Police chief Michel-Ange Gedeon said an investigation into the killings points to a gang fight, and he had suspended two officers accused by local civil rights groups of involvement in the massacre.
“If there are police involved with gangs, we are going to fire them,” he said. “If they are involved in human-rights violations we will turn them over to justice.”