Haitian President Jovenel Moise has been shot dead by unidentified attackers in his private residence overnight in a “barbaric act”, the government said on Wednesday, stirring fears of escalating turmoil in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
The assassination coincided with a wave of gang violence in Port-au-Prince as armed groups have battled with police and one another for control of the streets in recent months, turning many districts of the capital into no-go zones.
The 53-year-old president’s wife, Martine Moise, was also shot in the attack that took place around 1 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) and was receiving medical treatment, Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said in a statement.
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“A group of unidentified individuals, some of them speaking Spanish, attacked the private residence of the president of the republic and thus fatally wounded the head of state,” he said.
Joseph said the police and army had the security situation under control though gunfire could be heard throughout the crime-ridden capital of 1 million people after the attack.
With Haiti politically polarized and facing a growing humanitarian crisis and shortages of food, fears of widespread chaos are spreading. The Dominican Republic said it was closing the border it shares with Haiti on the island of Hispaniola.
The bloodshed in Haiti is driven by worsening poverty and political unrest.