Haitian police officers blocked streets and forced their way into the country’s main airport on Thursday to protest the recent killing of officers by armed gangs expanding their hold on the Caribbean nation.
Plainclothes protesters who identified themselves as police first attacked the official residence of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, according to a Reuters news agency witness, and then flooded the airport as Henry arrived from a trip to Argentina.
Henry was temporarily stuck at the airport, unable to get out, but returned to his Port-au-Prince residence later Thursday, followed by police protesters. The Reuters witness heard loud gunshots near his house.
The Haitian National Police and the prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Video shot by local media showed a group of men, some wearing T-shirts that read “Police,” in a heated argument with uniformed officers at the airport and then appearing to walk past the officers without a struggle.
Protesters blocked roads around Port-au-Prince and several northern cities.
Haitian human rights group RNDDH said in a statement that 78 police officers had been killed since Henry came to power in July 2021, an average of five each month, saying the prime minister and national police chief Frantz Elbe were “responsible for every one of the 78 lives lost during their tenure.”
“History will remember that they did nothing to protect and preserve the lives of these officers who chose to serve their country,” he added, urging police to remember their duty to protect the Haitian people, despite their “frustrations.”
Last week, four policemen near the capital were killed by the Vitelhomme gang, while Wednesday’s shootings with Savien’s gang in the city of Liancourt left another seven officers dead, according to the Haitian National Police and media. local communication.
The United Nations is debating sending a foreign strike force to deal with criminal groups. The proposal was originally made three months ago, but no country has offered to lead such a force.
*With Reuters; adapted from its original in English