Latin America

Police round up 17 suspects in hunt for killers of the president

independent.ie- Seventeen suspects have been detained so far in the stunning assassination of Haiti’s president, and Haitian authorities say two are believed to hold dual US-Haitian citizenship and Colombia’s government says at least six are former members of its army.

Léon Charles, chief of Haiti’s National Police, said that 15 of the detainees were from Colombia.

The police chief said eight more suspects were being sought and three others had been killed by police. Mr Charles had earlier said seven were killed.

“We are going to bring them to justice,” the police chief said, the 17 handcuffed suspects sitting on the floor during a news conference on developments following the brazen killing of President Jovenel Moïse at his home before dawn on Wednesday.

Colombia’s government said it had been asked about six of the suspects in Haiti, including two of those killed, and had determined they were retired members of its army. It did not release their identities.

The head of the Colombian national police, Gen Jorge Luis Vargas Valencia, said President Iván Duque had ordered the high command of Colombia’s army and police to cooperate in the investigation.

“A team was formed with the best investigators… they are going to send dates, flight times, financial information that is already being collected to be sent to Port-au-Prince,” Mr Vargas said.

The US State Department said it was aware of reports that Haitian-Americans were in custody but could not confirm or comment.

The Haitian-Americans were identified by Haitian officials as James Solages and Joseph Vincent. Solages, at age 35, is the youngest of the suspects and the oldest is 55, according to a document shared by Haiti’s minister of elections, Mathias Pierre. He would not provide further information on those in custody. Solages described himself as a “certified diplomatic agent,” an advocate for children and budding politician on a website for a charity he started in 2019 in south Florida to assist people in the Haitian coastal town of Jacmel. On his bio page for the charity, Solages said he previously worked as a bodyguard at the Canadian Embassy in Haiti.

Canada’s foreign ministry released a statement that did not refer to Solages by name but said one of the men detained for his alleged role in the killing had been “briefly employed as a reserve bodyguard” at its embassy by a private contractor.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said Haitian police had arrested 11 armed suspects who tried to break into the Taiwanese embassy early on Thursday. It gave no details of the suspects’ identities or a reason for the break-in.

Officials have given out little information on the killing, other than to say the attack was carried out by “a highly trained and heavily armed group.”

A Haitian judge involved in the investigation said Moïse was shot a dozen times and his office and bedroom were ransacked.

Haiti had grown increasingly unstable under Moïse, who had been ruling by decree for more than a year and faced violent protests as critics accused him of trying to amass more power while the opposition demanded he step down.

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