Haitian rebels bring in reinforcements from Dominican Republic, take two towns


GONAIVES, Haiti (AP) – Haitian rebels brought in reinforcements from the neighbouring Dominican Republic, including a former soldier who led death squads in the 1980s and a police chief accused of fomenting a coup, witnesses said Saturday, as police fled two more northern towns.

A 20-man commando arrived from the Dominican Republic, led by Louis Jodel Chamblain, a soldier who headed army death squads in 1987, and Emmanuel Constant, co-leader of a militia known as the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, or FRAPH, which killed and maimed dozens between 1992 and 1994, witnesses in Gonaives said. Chamblain fled to the Dominican Republic after 1994, while Constant went to New York City.

Guy Philippe, a former police chief who fled to the Dominican Republic after being accused by the Haitian government of fomenting a coup in 2002, also arrived in Gonaives to help the rebels prepare for an expected government showdown. It was unclear when the commando arrived.

The rebels launched a bloody uprising nine days ago from Gonaives, 100 kilometres northwest of the capital Port-au-Prince, and Haiti‘s fourth-largest city. Some 50 people have Roadblocks have halted most food and fuel shipments since the unrest began. Emergency supplies of flour, cooking oil and other basics are projected to run out in four days in northern areas cut off by roadblocks guarded by rebels who have seized Gonaives and burned police stations in more than a dozen other towns.

Nearby, rebels blocked the road outside Trou-du-Nord that leads to the Dominican border at Ouanaminthe. Merchants turned back, saying the barricade of boulders and cars has cut supplies that come from Dominican Republic, which shares the island Hispaniola with Haiti.

Rebels also have retaken the town Dondon and burned dozens of houses of Aristide supporters, said witnesses who fled to nearby Cap-Haitien. Police seized back the town Feb. 9, when Aristide militants torched nine opposition houses.

Overnight, rebels also attacked police in Saint Suzanne, 30 kilometres southwest of the northern port Cap-Haitien, said witnesses reached by telephone.

Haiti has only 5,000 police officers and those manning outlying towns often are outnumbered and outgunned by insurgents.

“The population, which is cut off completely from other parts of the country, is finding itself in a very risky, very dangerous situation,” Prime Minister Yvon Neptune said in Port-au-Prince, which has been unaffected by unrest in the north.

Rebels lit flaming tire barricades early Saturday on the southern entrance to Gonaives and patrolled with rifles against rumours police plan to counter-attack.

At the morgue was the body of an accused thief shot Saturday, apparently by rebels.

Opposition leaders planned a mass protest in Port-au-Prince on Sunday. On Thursday, Aristide militants crushed a planned anti-government demonstration, stoning opponents and blocking the protest route. Protests have been steady since mid-September.

The United States sent 20,000 troops to Haiti in 1994 to restore the elected Aristide to office, end a bloody military dictatorship and halt an exodus of refugees to Florida.

Washington said it plans no new military intervention in the Caribbean country of eight million, where discontent has grown since Aristide’s party swept legislative elections in 2000 that the opposition said were flawed and international donors froze millions of dollars worth of aid.

Opposition politicians refuse to participate in new elections unless Aristide steps down and the rebels said they will lay down their weapons only when he is ousted.

At the hospital in Gonaives, where the rebellion erupted Feb. 5, more than a dozen people waited to see doctors who never came. The Red Cross warned of a humanitarian disaster.

Janitor Pierre Joseph said doctors are afraid to return following a gunbattle a week ago when police stormed in carrying a wounded officer. With rebels in pursuit, police opened fire inside the hospital, killing at least three civilians who were trying to hide, he said.

Rebels dragged away the wounded officer and stoned him to death, smashing in his head, a photographer said.

In the western city St. Marc, where police regained control, anti-Aristide militants burned down a clinic Wednesday because officials refused to hand over two wounded colleagues.

Gas and food prices have more than doubled and more than one-half the population has fled mounting violence in recent months, leaving about 100,000 people in Gonaives, said Raoul Elysee of the Haitian Red Cross.

UN representative Adama Guindo appealed to police and rebels to open a “humanitarian corridor.” Barricades have blocked deliveries to some 268,000 people dependent on food aid in northern Haiti.