Armed Thugs Storm Prison, Release Hundreds

The Haitian government on March 3 declared a state of emergency and imposed a nighttime curfew in the wake of a wave of coordinated violence from armed gangs that attacked multiple locations in Port-au-Prince, including two of the country’s largest prisons, the Associated Press reported.

A 72-hour emergency went into effect as the government announced that it would track down the violent criminals who escaped after armed gangs seized the National Penitentiary.

Speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, Finance Minister Patrick Boivert said last Sunday that the police had been instructed to “use all legal means” to enforce the nighttime curfew and arrest “all offenders.”

Prime Minister Henry was out of the country at the time the violence erupted, seeking to drum up support for a UN-backed security force to come to Haiti to help stabilize the country as it deals with violence from increasingly powerful criminal gangs.

The state of emergency capped off a weekend of deadly violence in which at least nine people, including four police officers, lost their lives as criminal gangs launched coordinated attacks in Port-au-Prince.

In addition to the siege at the National Penitentiary on March 2, the gangs targeted a second prison, police stations, the international airport, and Haiti’s national soccer stadium.

Nearly all of the National Penitentiary’s 4,000 inmates escaped during the siege, leaving the prison virtually empty, except for the bodies of three people dead from gunshot wounds.

Only a few dozen prisoners remained behind, including the 18 former Columbian soldiers charged for their role in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021.

Gunmen also stormed a second prison in Port-au-Prince that holds about 1,400 inmates. The gangs occupied the national soccer stadium for hours and held one employee hostage.

Following the attack on Haiti’s airport, the US Embassy halted official travel into the country. By March 3, the Embassy urged Americans in Haiti to leave the country as soon as possible.