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Haiti Orders Nighttime Curfew After Prisoners Escape

Written by on March 4, 2024

Authorities in Haiti say they are enforcing a nighttime curfew following an eruption of weekend violence, including armed gangs fighting with police at the National Penitentiary.

A 72-hour state of emergency has been declared in the wake of the violence.

Thousands of prisoners fled Haiti’s National Penitentiary, located in the capital, during a Saturday night gunbattle between national police and armed gangs, an official said.

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry is currently overseas. He traveled last week to Kenya, where he signed a bilateral accord to authorize 1,000 Kenyan police officers who will lead a multinational security force. The United Nations authorized the force to help Haiti combat gang violence and reestablish security.

It was unclear where the prime minister was Sunday. Kenyan President William Ruto’s office did not respond to a request by VOA for information on Henry’s whereabouts.

The Henry government has not officially commented on what is happening in Haiti.

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti has not yet publicly commented on the weekend violence.

An engineer, who wished to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of law enforcement officials, said he was working with the national police to survey the situation Sunday morning.

The engineer said 99 prisoners remained inside the jail. He said the penitentiary previously held close to 4,000 prisoners. He said he was not prepared to give an estimate of how many prisoners died during the jailbreak.

Among the bodies outside the building were civilians who had been caught in the crossfire, he said, adding that the police commissioner would publish official numbers later.

“Those who remain [inside] are ill, prisoners who were being treated at the dispensary for various illnesses,” the engineer said.

Haiti’s National Penitentiary houses several high-profile prisoners. Among them: Cholzer Chancy, former president of the Chamber of Deputies who led the parliament between 2016 and 2018; Joseph Felix Badio, a key suspect in President Jovenel Moise’s assassination; Clifford Brandt, a convicted drug dealer who is the son of one of the richest men in Haiti.

The engineer told VOA that Brandt had been transferred out of the prison before the gun battle.

“No, Brandt is not here. They took him out and brought him to another location,” he said. He did not provide any other details.

A video widely shared on social media shows Brandt being taken out of the prison, accompanied by armed policemen and transferred to a police armored vehicle, a reporter from VOA could not verify when the video was recorded.

Marcelin Myrthil, arrested in connection with the grassroots anti-gang Bwa Kale movement, was also imprisoned at the penitentiary.

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