A group of 28 foreign mercenaries, including retired Colombian soldiers, assassinated Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse earlier this week, police have said.
Most were detained after a gun battle at a house in the capital Port-au-Prince where they were holed up. Bloodied and bruised, suspects were paraded in front of media on Thursday, along with a slew of seized weapons.
Eight more suspects are still on the run and three others were shot dead by police officers. Police say they are still searching for the masterminds behind the attack.
In the early hours of Wednesday, a group of gunmen broke into the president’s home in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and shot him and his wife. Mr. Moïse was found lying on his back with 12 bullet wounds and a gouged eye, and died at the scene, according to authorities.
His wife Martine was seriously injured and has been flown to Florida for treatment, where she is said to be in a stable condition.
Police said the hit squad included 15 Colombians and two Haitian-Americans. Angry civilians had joined in the search for the gunmen and helped police track down some of them who were hiding in bushes.
“We Haitians are appalled, we do not accept it,” one man told the AFP news agency. “We are ready to help because we need to know who is behind this, their names, their background so that justice can do its job.”
The crowd later set fire to three of the suspects’ cars and destroyed evidence. The police chief called for calm, saying the public should not take the law into their own hands.
Taiwan confirmed that 11 of the suspects were arrested at its embassy, where they had broken into one of its courtyards.
The motive for the attack is still unclear. However, Haiti’s interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph told the BBC that the 53-year-old president may have been targeted because he was fighting corruption.
At the news conference on Thursday, police also showed reporters Colombian passports. “Foreigners came to our country to kill the president,” Mr. Charles said, as the suspects sat on the floor behind him in handcuffs.
Colombia’s government has confirmed that at least six of the suspects appeared to be retired members of its military. It has pledged to assist Haiti with its investigation efforts.
The US state department, meanwhile, said it could not confirm if any of its citizens had been detained.
However US and Canadian media are reporting that one of the dual citizens arrested, James Solages, 35, is from Florida and was a former bodyguard at the Canadian embassy in Haiti.
An investigating judge told local media that Mr. Solages and the other US citizen, named as Joseph Vincent, had said they were there as translators for the mercenaries, after finding the job on the internet.
“The mission was to arrest President Jovenel Moïse… and not to kill him,” Judge Clément Noël told Haiti’s Le Nouvelliste newspaper.
The killing has triggered some civil unrest in what is the poorest nation in the Americas. A state of emergency remains in force across the country, while the Dominican Republic – which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti – has closed its border.