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Haiti declares state of emergency as violence escalates

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NEW DELHI: Haiti‘s government declared a state of emergency on Sunday following violent clashes in the capital leading to two prison breaks as a major gang leader attempts to overthrow Prime Minister Ariel Henry.
“In order to restore order, the government has imposed with immediate effect a curfew throughout the West territory for a “renewable period of seventy-two hours,” an official statement said.
Further, the curfew will apply “between six in the evening and five in the morning on Monday 4, Tuesday 5, Wednesday 6 and this Sunday, March 3 2024,” it added.
However, law enforcement, firefighters, ambulance drivers, health personnel, and duly identified journalists are exempted from the curfew, the statement notified.
The escalation of violence over the weekend paralyzed parts of the capital city and resulted in damaged communications. It has also led to two prison breaks, including one at the country’s largest prison.
Digicel chairman Maarten Boute said that their lines were affected due to the ongoing street violence in parts of the capital.
As the connections got restored by Sunday evening, Boute thanked the “brave technicians who worked tirelessly, in very precarious conditions to make this possible.”
On Saturday night, armed groups raided the country’s largest jail, defying Haitian authorities who had sought assistance.
“I’m the only one left in my cell,” an inmate told Reuters. “We were asleep when we heard the sound of bullets. The cell barriers are broken,” he said.
On Sunday, a voluntary prison worker said that 99 detainees had chosen to remain in their cells for fear of being killed in the gunfire. Several retired Colombian soldiers were imprisoned for allegedly participating in the killing of President Jovenel Moïse.
The bodies of three inmates who attempted to flee were found dead in the courtyard of the jail complex on Sunday.
As violence escalated in the absence of Prime Minister Henry, gang leader Cherizier warned locals to keep their children away from schools to avoid any harm.
According to the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM), about 15,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in recent days, and 10 sites housing internally displaced persons were emptied over the weekend.
Prime Minister Henry, who assumed office in 2021 after the assassination of President Moïse, previously announced his intention to step down by early February. He later stated that security must first be restored in order to enable free and fair elections.

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