By Mukwuzi Joseph
A group of unidentified individuals attacked the private residence of Haitian President Jovenel Moise overnight and shot him dead, Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said in a statement released Wednesday.
At around 1am on Wednesday July 7, a group of unidentified people, including some speaking Spanish, attacked the private residence of the president, mortally wounding the head of state. The First Lady suffered bullet injuries and was in hospital, said a statement released by Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph’s office.
Joseph said he was now in charge of the country.
Condemning the “inhumane and barbaric act”, Joseph called for calm, saying the police and the country’s armed forces had taken control of the security situation.
With Haiti politically divided, and facing a growing humanitarian crisis and shortages of food, there are fears of widespread disorder. The Dominican Republic said it was closing the border it shares with Haiti on the island of Hispaniola.
Moise had been ruling Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, by decree, after legislative elections due in 2018 were delayed in the wake of disputes, including on when his own term ends.
In addition to the political crisis, kidnappings for ransom have surged in recent months, further reflecting the growing influence of armed gangs in the Caribbean nation.
Haiti also faces chronic poverty and recurrent natural disasters.
Hours after the shock news of the assassination broke, the US said it was assessing the “tragic attack” in Haiti.
“We’re still gathering information. We’re still assessing right now,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on MSNBC, adding that US President Joe Biden will be briefed on the situation.
The US Embassy said in a statement it would be closed on Wednesday due to the “ongoing security situation”.
On June 30, the US condemned what it described as a systematic violation of human rights, fundamental freedoms and attacks on the press in Haiti, urging the government to counter a proliferation of gangs and violence.