Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse has been killed and his wife injured in an attack on their home in the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince.
Unidentified gunmen stormed the property at 01:00 local time (05:00 GMT), interim PM Claude Joseph said. He has called for calm and declared a state of emergency nationwide
Mr Moïse had led Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the world, since 2017 but had faced widespread protests demanding his resignation.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was “saddened at the death of Mr Moïse”, calling it “an abhorrent act” and appealing for calm. US President Joe Biden offered condolences to the people of Haiti for the “horrific assassination”
Mr Joseph called the shooting of the president a “heinous, inhuman and barbaric act”, saying the attackers were “foreigners who spoke English and Spanish”. Haiti’s official languages are Creole and French.
Some reports spoke of men dressed in black carrying high-powered weapons who may have pretended to be part of a US drug enforcement operation, but no official details have been given.
Mr Joseph said that “all measures have been taken to ensure continuity” and that “democracy and the republic will win”.
Haiti’s constitution says ministers, under the leadership of the prime minister, take control in the event of presidential vacancy, until elections can be called.
The neighbouring Dominican Republic ordered the “immediate closure” of its border with Haiti. According to Reuters, Haiti’s ambassador to the US, Bocchit Edmond, said that the first lady was in a critical condition and attempts were being made to transfer her to Miami.
Jovenel Moïse, 53, had been in power since February 2017. His time in office was rocky as he faced accusations of corruption and there were widespread demonstrations in the capital and other cities earlier this year.
Haiti’s opposition said that Mr Moïse’s five-year term should have ended on 7 February 2021, but Mr Moïse insisted he had one more year to serve as he did not take office until 7 February 2017.
Parliamentary elections should have been held in October 2019 but disputes have delayed them, meaning Mr Moïse had been ruling by decree.
In February this year, on the day the opposition wanted him to leave office, Mr Moïse said an attempt to kill him and overthrow the government had been foiled.
Haiti has also faced a wave of recent gang violence and kidnappings, particularly in the capital, with a number of its districts becoming no-go areas.
The worsening living standards in the nation of 11 million people have pushed nearly 60% below the poverty line.
A UN peacekeeping force was put in place in 2004 to help stabilise the country, and only withdrew in 2017, but the turmoil has shown no sign of ending.
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