Haiti Names James Solages, a U.S. Citizen, as Assassination Suspect
Haitian officials identified the American suspects as James Solages and Joseph Vincent, both of Haitian descent.
Two U.S. citizens are among at least 17 suspects arrested in the Moise killing.
Haitians surrounding a police station Thursday where two suspects were taken.Credit…Jean Marc Herve Abelard/EPA, via Shutterstock
At least seventeen people, including fifteen Colombians and two American citizens, were detained in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, Haitian officials said Thursday night as they paraded the suspects before the news media and asserted that “foreigners” had been involved in the brazen attack.
At a news conference at National Police Headquarters with the interim prime minister, the American men were described as being of Haitian descent and were identified as Joseph Vincent and James Solages. Haitian security officials had earlier described Mr. Solages as a resident of South Florida who had been apprehended on Wednesday during the manhunt for the assailants.
At least eight more suspects were on the run, authorities said.
“We are pursuing them. We are asking the public to help us,” said Haiti’s police chief, Leon Charles, before a phalanx of politicians and police.
The detainees were lined up at the news conference Thursday night in handcuffs, some showing signs of physical injuries. A table displayed at least 10 Colombian passports, along with automatic weapons, sledgehammers and saws.
The country’s interim prime minister Claude Joseph said a group of foreigners had entered the country to kill the president “in a cowardly fashion.””They forgot something,” he said. “You may kill the president, but you cannot kill his dreams, you cannot kill his ideology, and you cannot kill what he was fighting for. That’s why I’m determined for President Jovenel Moise’s family, friends and allies, and the Haitian population, to get justice.”
Angry civilians have also joined in the hunt, capturing some suspects themselves and setting afire vehicles thought to have been used in the attack. Haiti is now basically under martial law after Mr. Joseph declared an “etat de siege” — a state of siege — that allows the police and members of security forces to enter homes, control traffic and take special security measures. It also forbids meetings meant to excite or prepare for disorder.
The rapidly evolving crisis deepened the turmoil and violence that has gripped Haiti for months, threatening to tip one of the world’s most troubled nations further into lawlessness. Questions swirled about who might have been behind such a brazen attack and how they eluded the president’s security detail to carry it out.
There were reports of fighting between suspects and security forces throughout the day. Earlier Thursday, Helen La Lime, the top U.N. official in Haiti, told reporters that a group of suspects had “taken refuge in two buildings in the city and are now surrounded by police.” She spoke via teleconference from Port-au-Prince, after briefing the United Nations Security Council on the Haitian crisis in a private meeting. It was unclear if the situation had been resolved.
Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, has described the assailants as “well-trained professionals, killers, commandos.”
The New York Times
On Wednesday, security forces engaged in a chaotic shootout with a group of what they described as suspected assailants, though they offered no evidence linking them to the attack. Officers killed several in the group and took others into custody, authorities said.
Chief Charles said Thursday that five vehicles that might have been used in the attack had been seized and that several of them had been burned by civilians. He said it was impossible for the police to gather evidence from inside the charred vehicles.
Social media was full of images of civilians parading men with their arms tied behind their backs and men in the back of a police pickup truck.
A large crowd of people gathered in front of the police station in the Petionville area of Port-au-Prince on Thursday morning, before Chief Charles spoke, some demanding vigilante justice for the suspects they believed to be inside. “Burn them,” some cried.
Carl Henry Destin, a Haitian judge, told the Nouvelliste newspaper that the assailants had posed as agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration — both U.S. and Haitian officials said that they were not associated with the D.E.A. — when they burst into the president’s private home on the outskirts of the capital around 1 a.m. on Wednesday.
Judge Destin said that a maid and another member of the household staff had been tied up by the attackers as they made their way to the president’s bedroom.
The president was shot at least 12 times, he said.
“The offices and the president’s bedroom were ransacked,” Mr. Destin said. “We found him lying on his back, blue pants, white shirt stained with blood, mouth open, left eye blown out.”
He said Mr. Moise appeared to have been shot with both large-caliber guns and smaller 9-millimeter weapons.
The president’s wife, Martine Moise, was injured in the assault and was rushed by air ambulance to the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami, where Mr. Joseph, the interim prime minister, said she was “out of danger” and in stable condition. Representative Frederica Wilson of Florida said at a news conference in Miami that Ms. Moise was not the target of the attack and that, according to the U.S. State Department, “she was caught in a crossfire.”
Martine Moise, wife of the slain President Jovenel Moise, was rushed to a hospital in Miami on Wednesday following the nighttime raid and attack on their home in Haiti.CreditCredit…Valerie Baeriswyl/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Ms. Wilson said the couple’s three children are in protective custody. Mr. Destin said that two of the children had been present during the attack, and that they had hidden together in a bathroom.
Andre Paulte and Harold Isaac contributed.