July 8 (UPI) — Haitian President Jovenel Moise was assassinated at his home on Wednesday with police stating later that evening that officers had killed four suspects in a gun battle and arrested two others.
Police chief Leon Charles said during an evening press conference that police are still pursuing other suspects.
“The police are engaged in a battle with the assailants,” he said. “We are pursuing them so that, in a gunfight, they meet their fate or in gunfight they die, or we apprehend them.”
Three police officers whom the suspects had taken hostage were also freed, he said.
Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said earlier Wednesday that a group of armed attackers shot Jovenel Moise and his wife, Martine Moise, after midnight at their home in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.
It’s believed some of the attackers spoke Spanish, Joseph said in a statement. The interim prime minister condemned the attack as “inhumane” and “barbaric.”
“The country’s security situation is under the control of the National Police of Haiti and the Armed Forces of Haiti,” Joseph added. “Democracy and the republic will win.”
The Haitian Embassy in Canada also announced Moise’s death.
“It is with great sadness that we confirm the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, during an attack on his residence by mercenaries,” the embassy tweeted. “Our hearts go out to the presidential family and to the whole nation.”
The president’s wife was flown to Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport in Florida and arrived at approximately 3:30 p.m. with arrangements in place for her to be taken to Miami to receive treatment at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Martine Moise sustained gunshot wounds to her arms and thigh along with a severe injury to her hand and abdomen and her vitals were stable but critical.
Some protesters have recently demanded Jovenel Moise’s removal, The New York Times reported. Haiti was devastated by a severe earthquake in 2010 and hasn’t fully recovered, even after receiving billions in reconstruction aid.
With poverty and hunger increasing, Jovenel Moise’s government has been accused of corruption and denying basic services to Haitians.
“We are shocked and saddened to hear of the horrific assassination of President Jovenel Moise and the attack on first lady Martine Moise of Haiti,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement. “We condemn this heinous act, and I am sending my sincere wishes for first lady Moise’s recovery.
“The United States offers condolences to the people of Haiti, and we stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti.”
Haiti recently saw increases in COVID-19 deaths and awaits its first vaccine delivery from the international COVAX program. The country held carnival celebrations and eased restrictions earlier this year and is one of a handful of nations that have not begun vaccination programs.