According to police and witnesses, at least 10 suspected gang members were lynched and burned alive by residents of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Monday.
“During a search of a minibus in which there were armed individuals, the police confiscated weapons and other equipment. In addition, more than a dozen individuals traveling in this vehicle were unfortunately lynched by members of the population,” the police said in a statement.
Residents awoke to gunshots
The violence started before dawn, when gang members burst into several residential areas of the capital, looting homes and attacking residents, according to witnesses in the Canape-Vert district.
“It was the sound of projectiles that woke us up this morning. It was 3:00 am, the gangs invaded us. There were shots, shots,” a resident of the neighboring district of Turgeau told AFP news agency.
“If the gangs come to invade us, we will defend ourselves, we too have our own weapons, we have our machetes, we will take their weapons, we will not flee,” another resident told AFP.
Police spokesperson Gary Desrosiers said that the lynched individuals were a group of armed bandits traveling in a vehicle in the capital, and the police had sought to arrest them. He also confirmed that in a separate incident, notorious crime boss Carlo Petithomme — who led a gang known as Ti Makak — was dead.
The lynchings come after days of violent confrontations between gang members and security personnel.
Violence risen in Haiti
Haiti’s security situation has deteriorated since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021, with criminal groups controlling about 80% of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, where some 200 gangs operate.
The incident occurred as the United Nations warned that the level of insecurity in the Haitian capital was comparable to countries at war.
According to a report released by the UN, the number of homicides in Haiti increased by 21% from the last quarter of 2022 to 815 between January 1 and March 31 this year.
The number of reported kidnappings soared by 63%, from 391 to 637. The report emphasized that the situation for residents living in gang-controlled areas is very poor.
Armed gangs “continued to compete to expand their territorial control throughout the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, spreading to previously unaffected neighborhoods,” said the report from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“With the high number of fatalities and increasing areas under the control of armed gangs, insecurity in the capital has reached levels comparable to countries in armed conflict,” it added.
Guterres in October relayed a call for help from Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, asking the Security Council to send assistance to help police restore order.
Families flee violence
As the situation worsens, residents are taking up arms to defend themselves. Dozens of families left the neighborhoods caught in the spiral of violence on Monday.
At least three other suspected gang members were killed and then burned in the afternoon.
Conditions in areas targeted by gangs have worsened significantly, with snipers shooting people on the streets from rooftops. The UN humanitarian coordinator for Haiti said that the inhabitants feel besieged and cannot leave their homes due to fear of armed violence and terror imposed by the gangs.