A heavily armed gang besieged the Fontaine Hospital Center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. The hospital holds immense significance as a vital resource for the community residing in the Cite Soleil shantytown, an area witnessing escalating violence between gangs and against local residents.
According to Jose Ulysse, the hospital’s founder and director, the gangs have been setting ablaze homes surrounding the hospital, trapping occupants indoors and preventing their escape.
Ulysse had initially said some gang members entered the hospital, but later said none of them had come in, and denied reports that they had entered the facility and taken patients hostage.
“There was no hostage-taking. There was a gang war, but the war is around the hospital. We’ve had neighboring houses burnt down,” he told the AFP news agency.
“All the health staff took cover… and we had to call the police to come and help us evacuate all the people who couldn’t move on their own, among them women who had a caesarean yesterday and couldn’t walk,” he said.
Ulysse said Haitian police arrived with three armored trucks and evacuated 40 children and 70 other patients to a safe space. Some patients fled the scene on their own.
Ulysse said those responsible were members of the Brooklyn gang, led by Gabriel Jean-Pierre, also known as “Ti Gabriel.” The gang has around 200 members and is involved in extortion, hijacking of goods and violence, according to a UN report.
Jean-Pierre is also the leader of a gang alliance called G-Pep, one of the two rival coalitions in Haiti.
Haitian gangs have become more powerful since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, and the numbers of kidnappings and killings have risen.
Earlier this year, at least 20 armed gang members burst into a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders and took away a patient in an operating room.