Unidentified individuals attacked private residence of Haitian President Jovenel Moise overnight and shot him dead, interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph says.
The first lady was hospitalised in the attack.
“The country’s security situation is under the control of the National Police of Haiti and the Armed Forces of Haiti,” Joseph said in a statement from his office. “Democracy and the republic will win.”
“All measures are being taken to guarantee the continuity of the state and to protect the nation,” Joseph added.
Moise had been ruling Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, by decree after legislative elections due in 2018 were delayed and following disputes on when his own term ended.
In the early morning hours of Wednesday, the streets were largely empty in the Caribbean nation’s capital of Port-au-Prince, but some people ransacked businesses in one area. After the attack, gunshots could be heard throughout the capital.
Joseph said police have been deployed to the National Palace and the upscale community of Pétionville and will be sent to other areas.
Joseph condemned the assassination as a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act”. He said some of the attackers spoke in Spanish but offered no further explanation.
The nation of more than 11 million people had grown increasingly unstable and disgruntled under Moise, who was 53.
The attack occurred amid a rising wave of politically linked violence in the impoverished Caribbean nation. With Haiti politically divided, and facing a growing humanitarian crisis and shortages of food, there are fears of widespread disorder.
Port-au-Prince had been suffering an increase in violence as gangs battle one another and police for control of the streets.
That violence was fuelled by an increase in poverty and political instability.
Some 60 percent of the population makes less than $2 a day. These troubles come as Haiti still tries to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew that struck in 2016.
Moise has faced fierce protests since he took office as president in 2017, with the opposition accusing him this year of seeking to install a dictatorship by overstaying his mandate and becoming more authoritarian – charges he denied.
Haiti was scheduled to hold general elections later this year.
More to follow..