Haiti’s National Police managed to kill four suspects and arrest two others they said were involved in the well-coordinated assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
Law enforcement officials in the country say a gunfight between police and additional suspects is ongoing as of early Thursday.
Léon Charles, the country’s top cop, told reporters that police are still hunting for suspects, the New York Times reported.
“Four mercenaries were killed [and] two were intercepted under our control,” Charles said, according to the BBC. “Three policemen who had been taken hostage have been recovered. We blocked [the suspects] en route as they left the scene of the crime. Since then, we have been battling with them.”
The gunmen were highly trained and spoke Spanish or English, Claude Joseph, the country’s interim prime minister, said, according to the Associated Press. The BBC pointed out that Haiti’s official languages are Creole and French.
Another official in the country called the assassins “well trained professional commandos” and “foreign mercenaries” who carried high-powered guns, were dressed in black and masqueraded as U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents.
Details of the attack have been scant and there is no known motive. The suspects killed in the shootout were not identified. Joseph’s office said the attack unfolded at the president’s private home in Port-au-Prince at about 1 a.m. local time and he was fatally wounded. Joseph told the paper that he is running the country.
The Times reported that Martine Moïse, the president’s wife, was also badly injured in the attack and is receiving treatment at a hospital in Florida. The BBC reported that she was listed in stable but critical condition.
Moïse was a 48-year-old businessman with little political experience when he was sworn in as president of Haiti on Feb. 7, 2017. The former banana producer inherited a nation in turmoil — one that had gone a year without an elected leader in place. He leaves it in chaos as well.
Taking office, he pledged to strengthen institutions, fight corruption and bring more investment and jobs to the hemisphere’s poorest nation. “We can change Haiti if we work together,” Moïse said on the grounds of what used to be the national palace — one of many buildings obliterated by a January 2010 earthquake that killed thousands of Haitians.
The Associated Press contributed to this report