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Haiti Declares State of Emergency Following Mass Prison Escape

Credits: South China Morning Post

Haiti’s government declared a state of emergency after a surge of gang violence led to the apparent escape of thousands of inmates from the country’s largest prison.

The declaration cited the “deterioration of security” in Port-au-Prince and “increasingly violent criminal acts perpetrated by armed gangs,” including kidnappings, killings, and other violent crimes.

Attacks by armed groups on Saturday targeted the country’s two largest prisons, resulting in the escape of “dangerous prisoners” and causing deaths and injuries among police and prison staff.

A United Nations source estimated that around 3,500 prisoners escaped from the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince during the weekend. According to a Haitian lawyer, 3,597 prisoners escaped from the prison.

Haiti Prison Escape (Credits: The Independent)

Police unions in Haiti called for officers with access to cars and weapons to assist in maintaining control of the prison, warning that failure to do so could lead to increased violence and chaos in the capital.

The recent surge in violence, which began Thursday and targeted police stations, the international airport, and the penitentiary, is described as unprecedented in recent years.

Haitian gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, also known as Barbecue, called for the arrest of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, accusing him of failing to address the country’s issues. Cherizier, who leads an alliance of gangs, has faced sanctions from the UN and the US Department of Treasury.

The US Embassy in Haiti issued a security alert, warning of gunshots and disruptions to traffic near the domestic and international terminals, as well as surrounding areas.

The embassy urged US citizens to leave the country due to the violence, and the French Embassy in Haiti suspended visa and administration services.

Haiti has been plagued by unrest and gang violence, with warring gangs controlling parts of Port-au-Prince and causing widespread displacement of residents. The UN has described January as the most violent month in two years, with over 1,100 people killed, injured, or kidnapped.

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