Twenty-six Colombians and two US men were involved in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, interim police chief Leon Charles said on Thursday evening.
The two US men, who are of Haitian origin, and 15 of the Colombians were arrested, Charles said at a televised press conference in Port-au-Prince with interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph.
Three Colombian suspects were killed and eight were on the run, Charles said.
Colombian Defence Minister Diego Molano said in a video address initial information showed the suspects were former members of the Colombian army.
Those who had been arrested were put on show at the press conference – they sat on the floor with handcuffs on, some with visible injuries.
Items that Charles said had been confiscated were on display on a table. Among them were automatic weapons, machetes, sledgehammers, Colombian passports and mobile phones.
Police had earlier said six suspects were arrested and four had been shot, and the United Nations said security forces had surrounded further suspects in Port-au-Prince.
The Washington Post had earlier reported a US national was among those arrested, citing Haiti’s elections minister Mathias Pierre.
Moise was killed in the early hours of Wednesday in an attack on his residence near the capital Port-au-Prince. His wife Martine was injured and has been taken to the United States for medical treatment.
Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, said the assassins were highly trained and heavily armed foreign mercenaries, who had posed as agents of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
According to newspaper Le Nouvelliste, there were 12 bullet holes in Moise’s body, including from heavy-caliber weapons.
Moise’s bedroom and office were ransacked, while his daughter hid in her brother’s room and two employees were tied up, according to the report.
The situation in Haiti remained tense on Thursday after the attack. Videos on social media purportedly showed groups of people on the street detaining alleged suspects in the murder.
One video posted by news portal Journal La Diaspora allegedly showed a large crowd of people who had gathered in front of a police station to kill the detained suspects.
There were also reports of Cuban doctors being attacked, after interim premier Claude Joseph said the perpetrators spoke Spanish and English. Haitian Creole and French are Haiti’s official languages.
In Taipei, the Taiwan government said on Friday that the Haitian police on Thursday entered the office of its embassy in Haiti and arrested some armed suspects who had earlier sneaked into the building and hidden there.
“The police launched an operation around 4 pm [2000 GMT] and successfully arrested 11 suspects. The process went smoothly,” the embassy said in a statement in French, adding that the suspects were brought back by the police for further questioning.
The Taiwan embassy said it have given the green light to the Haitian police without hesitation. Haiti, one of Taiwan’s 15 diplomatic allies, has maintained official relations for 65 years.
“The embassy welcomes the rapid response of the Haitian authorities and continues, as always, to work alongside the Haitian people,” it said.
The United Nations Security Council met on Thursday to discuss the situation.
According to UN special envoy for Haiti Helen La Lime, Haiti called for additional security support during the meeting. It was not initially clear what this would entail.
La Lime added that Haiti’s UN ambassador asked for international support in the investigation of the murder. She said the UN was prepared to help with the enquiry.
White House press spokesperson Jen Psaki said the United States was ready to help Haiti as soon as a formal request was made.
The attack leaves behind a power vacuum. Haiti has been mired in a deep political crisis for years, with protests against Moise’s rule repeatedly paralysing the country.
He had been ruling the country by decree since his administration failed to hold legislative elections in October 2019. Haiti has not had a parliament since the start of the new legislative period in January 2020.
In a sign of the political chaos even before the assassination, this Monday Moise had appointed Ariel Henry as the seventh prime minister of his term – succeeding interim prime minister Claude Joseph.
But, like Joseph before him, Henry could not be confirmed as head of government due to a lack of quorum in parliament, as Haiti’s constitution requires.
Joseph has identified himself as acting or interim prime minister, signing decrees for a 15-day state of siege as well as 15 days of mourning on Wednesday.
In an interview with Le Nouvelliste, Henry said that Joseph was not prime minister anymore in his opinion, but also added: “I don’t want to fan the flames.”
New presidential and parliamentary elections are planned for September 26. Joseph has said he wants to stick to the date.