Haiti police blame Colombian, US suspects in president’s slaying

PortauPrince – A 28-member hit squad made up of Americans and Colombians assassinated President Jovenel Moise, Haitian police said Thursday, adding that eight were still at large as the country lurched into political chaos.

One day after Moise was killed and his wife Martine wounded by gunmen in their Port-au-Prince home, the poorest country in the Americas has no president or working parliament and two men claiming to be in charge as prime minister.

Police paraded some of the suspects before the media Thursday, along with Colombian passports and weapons they had seized. The head of the Haiti’s National Police, Leon Charles, vowed to track the other eight down. “It was a team of 28 assailants, 26 of whom were Colombian, who carried out the operation to assassinate the president,” Charles said at the press conference in Port-au-Prince. “We have arrested 15 Colombians and the two Americans of Haitian origin. Three Colombians have been killed while eight others are on the loose.” Previously authorities had said four of the suspects had been killed. Charles did not explain the discrepancy.

Colombia’s defense minister Diego Molano said at least six members of the hit squad appeared to be Colombian ex-soldiers, and that he had ordered the army and police to help with the investigation.

In Port-au-Prince, shops, banks and gas stations were closed, as questions swirled over who killed the president and why — and why his security detail had failed to protect him. The border with neighboring Dominican Republic — the two share the island of Hispaniola – was closed.  Haiti’s main airport was also closed, but due to reopen on Friday.

Authorities have not confirmed the identities of the two Americans of Haitian origin. Officials have said the killers spoke English and Spanish. The US State Department said it could not confirm that any US citizen was arrested. Haiti’s ambassador to Washington, Bocchit Edmond, has said the killers were “professional” mercenaries disguised as US Drug Enforcement Administration agents.  Haiti has requested US assistance in its investigation, according to State Department spokesman Ned Price. “We are aware of a Haitian National Police request for investigative assistance and the United States is responding,” Price told reporters.

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