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Haitians demand the resignation and arrest of the country’s police chief after a new gang attack

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A growing number of civilians and police officers are demanding the dismissal and arrest of Haiti’s police chief as heavily armed gangs launched a new attack in the capital of Port-au-Prince, seizing control of yet another police station early Saturday.

Armed men raided the coastal community of Gressier in the western tip of Port-au-Prince late Friday, injuring people, burning cars and attacking homes and other infrastructure as scores of people fled into the nearby mountains following a barrage of gunfire overnight.

It was not immediately known if anyone died.

Videos posted on social media showed people fleeing into the early dawn balancing bags and suitcases on their heads as men clad in sandals and carrying heavy weapons celebrated with gunfire.

“The town is ours,” said one man who filmed himself with others who were armed, noting they were in Gressier. “We have no limits.”

The attack comes roughly a week after gang attacks in central Port-au-Prince forced more than 3,700 people to flee their homes.

“The situation is critical and catastrophic,” Garry Jean-Baptiste, a spokesman for the SPNH-17 police union, told The Associated Press.

He called Frantz Elbé, director of Haiti’s National Police, incapable and incompetent: “Monsieur Elbé has failed.”

Jean-Baptiste said the union wants a newly installed transitional presidential council to demand Elbé’s resignation and order justice officials to launch an investigation into the crisis.

“Police continue to lose their premises and equipment and officers,” he said, adding that at least 30 police stations and substations have been attacked and burned in recent months.

He also accused Elbé and other high-ranking officials of being complicit with gangs.

Elbé did not immediately return a message for comment.

Jean-Baptiste said the officer who was stationed in Gressier “resisted for a while” but was unable to stave off the gang attack given a lack of staff and resources.

“The police could not prevent the worst,” he said.

Jean-Baptiste said the attack was planned by gunmen who came from the neighboring communities of Village de Dieu, Martissant and Mariani.

Gressier is in an area controlled by Renel Destina. Best known as “Ti Lapli,” he is a leader of the Grand Ravine gang and considered a key ally of Izo, another powerful gang leader, according to the U.N.

The Grand Ravine gang has some 300 members and is accused of killings, kidnappings, rapes and other crimes.

Those fleeing Gressier now join more than 360,000 other Haitians who have been forced to abandon their homes as gangs raze communities in rival territories to control more land. Tens of thousands of Haitians have squeezed into squalid, makeshift shelters, including schools and government buildings abandoned due to gang violence.

The violence surged starting Feb. 29, when gangs launched coordinated attacks. Gunmen have burned police stations, opened fire on the main international airport that remains closed since March 4 and raided Haiti’s two biggest prisons, freeing more than 4,000 inmates.

Veteran politician André Michel wrote on the social media platform X that the most recent attack targeting Gressier shows “Haiti will not be able to get out from under the gangs without an international force. … We will not be able to secure the country ourselves.”

A U.N.-backed deployment of Kenyan police officers to Haiti has been repeatedly delayed, although some believe the first officers might arrive in late May.

Scores of U.S. military planes have been landing at the shuttered airport in Port-au-Prince in recent weeks, carrying civilian contractors, life-saving supplies, building materials and heavy equipment ahead of the anticipated arrival of a multinational mission.

By DÁNICA COTO
Associated Press

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