An armed gang near Haiti’s capital ambushed two armored police vehicles and killed an officer in the latest attack against the country’s beleaguered force.
The Haiti National Police, which confirmed the attack, said gangs used Molotov cocktails to set the two armored vehicles on fire while they were in Source Matelas, a community just north of Port-au-Prince where at least 100 Haitians were killed last month in a gang attack.
“Following this attack, one of our brave police officers was unfortunately murdered,” a police statement said. “This criminal act, which is beyond reprehensible, will not go unpunished.”
The ambush occurred sometime between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, police said. It is the latest act of violence against police officers, who are increasingly targeted by armed gangs. At least 24 police officers have been killed so far this year, according to the National Human Rights Defense Network.
Meanwhile, more than 1,400 Haitians have been killed in the first four months in gang-related conflicts, the United Nations has said.
Police did not identify the dead officer, nor did they provide details on whether the officers involved were on active duty when the incident occurred. A police official, dispelling rumors that the officers were returning from Cap-Haïtien, told the Miami Herald that there is a security presence along National Road No. 1 where the attack occurred. He added that an investigation remains ongoing.
While Haitian police officers have stepped up anti-gang operations in recent days, a number of police officers had been temporarily transferred to Cap-Haïtien to beef up security for members of the government who were commemorating the 220th anniversary of the founding of Haiti’s flag on Thursday in the northern city.
Several Haitian media outlets have identified the fallen officer as Roberto Charleston, a member of a specialized police unit. Sources familiar with the incident told the Miami Herald that the attacked occurred at around 2 a.m. Thursday and the officer became trapped. Also, they said, the two armored vehicles that went up in flames were among the fleet of recently acquired Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles the Haitian government purchased from a Canadian company.
In its statement, the police leadership said it has already taken action “to tackle and apprehend the thugs.”
The police killing was the second brazen attack in less than 24 hours.
On Wednesday morning, a high-profile investigative judge, Jean Wilner Morin, dodged an assassination attempt as he headed to work.
Two men riding on motorcycles riddled the judge’s black Toyota with bullets, a source close to Morin confirmed to the Miami Herald. The incident happened along Route Frères, and was condemned by the Professional Association of Judges in a statement. Calling the attack “odious,” the association called on Haitian authorites to take responsibility in guaranteeing the safety of citizens.
Morin is in charge of several corruption cases and has been holding hearings before bringing formal charges.