PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Police raided a remote village and fired shots as they
chased away an armed band led by former soldiers opposed to Haiti’s government,
an official said Monday.
No one was injured as police swooped in by helicopter and raided the village of
Pernal, which had been occupied by about 50 armed men, presidential spokesman
Jacques Maurice said. The group fled during Saturday’s raid as police set off
grenades, but two men were captured, he said.
“The soldiers abandoned their uniforms, and took flight after setting fire to
the homes they were staying in,” Maurice said. Ten homes were burned,
independent Radio Metropole reported.
The group included about 10 ex-soldiers ? who served in Haiti’s army until it
was disbanded by Aristide in 1994 ? and about 40 other men, Maurice said.
Previously, officials had said the group was entirely made up of ex-soldiers.
The government accuses the men of carrying out attacks as they demand the
ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. It was unclear what charges the two
captured civilians might face.
The group allegedly made its base in Pernal, in the hills outside the town of
Belladere, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) northeast of Port-au-Prince.
Authorities were searching for those who fled.
The government accuses members of the group of killing regional justice of the
peace Christophe Lozama on Nov. 28. The group also allegedly stormed a police
station Dec. 10 and released four prisoners, two of them suspects in the Lozama
killing. The men killed four people as they fled that day.
The government has accused the opposition of trying to overthrow Aristide and
lending moral support to the armed band. Opposition leaders insist they oppose
Joseph Jean-Baptiste, who leads an association of ex-soldiers, said he doubted
the official account of the raid and said the government “has staged an event
in an attempt to eliminate former soldiers.”
It wasn’t immediately possible to confirm the government’s account due to the
Since mid-November, tens of thousands have protested in anti-government
demonstrations to demand Aristide’s resignation. Police and Aristide’s
supporters have intervened, and clashes have left at least three dead and some
The opposition accuses Aristide of incompetence in dealing with problems from
poverty to political violence. But the president says he has brought relative
peace and has refused to step down before his term ends in 2006.
Aristide first won the presidency in 1990, but was ousted in a military coup
after less than a year and went into exile.
Restored to power following a 1994 U.S. invasion, Aristide demobilized the
Caribbean country’s army and replaced it with a civilian police force.
Aristide ceded power to chosen successor Rene Preval in 1996, then won a second
five-year term in 2000. Major opposition parties boycotted the presidential
vote due to a dispute over flawed legislative elections earlier that year.
The dispute has held up hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid.
Aristide now supports holding early legislative elections next year. But the
opposition refuses to appoint representatives to an electoral council, saying
the government must do more to ensure security and arrest perpetrators of past