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    Haiti: Hundreds of prisoners escape as armed gangs storm main prison

    Most of the 4,000 prisoners escaped Photo: Getty

    Hundreds of prisoners escaped from Haiti's main prison after armed gangs stormed the prison facility in an overnight explosion of violence that engulfed much of the capital. At least five people had died by Sunday.

    The prison break marked a new low in the downward spiral of violence in Haiti as gangs escalate coordinated attacks in Port-au-Prince.

    Ariel Henry , the country's embattled prime minister is abroad trying to salvage the support of UN-backed security forces to stabilize the country.

    Three bodies with gunshot wounds were seen lying at the entrance to the prison, which was wide open on Sunday with no guards in sight. Plastic sandals, clothing and electric fans were strewn across the usually crowded concrete courtyards. The facility housed several gang leaders.

    In another area, the bloody corpses of two men with their hands tied behind their backs lay face down as residents walked past roadblocks with burning tires.

    Gangs have stepped up coordinated attacks. Photo: Johnson Sabin/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Family members rushed to the prison to check on their loved ones. Photo: Ralph Tedi Erol/Reuters

    Authorities have not yet provided an account of what happened. But Arnel Remy, a human rights lawyer whose nonprofit works inside the prison, told X that fewer than 100 of the nearly 4,000 inmates remain behind bars.

    Among those who chose to remain were 18 former Colombian soldiers accused of working as mercenaries during the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021. On Saturday night, several Colombians shared a video asking for their lives.

    “They are killing people.”

    “Please, please help us,” one of the men, Francisco Uribe, said broadly in the post. shared on social networks. “They kill people indiscriminately in their cells.”

    On Sunday, Uribe said: “I did not escape because I am innocent.”

    In the absence of official information, family members of prisoners rushed to prison to visit loved ones.

    “I don’t know whether my son is alive or not,” Alexander Jean said as she wandered around the prison. cells look for any signs of it. “I don't know what to do.”

    Among those who chose to remain in prison were 18 former accused Colombian soldiers work as mercenaries. Photo: Ralph Tedi Erol/Reuters

    The violence that erupted on Saturday evening appeared to be widespread, with gunfire reported in several neighborhoods.

    There were reports of a second escape from a smaller prison in Port-au-Prince, which housed about 1,400 inmates. Armed gangs also seized and destroyed the country's main football stadium, taking one staff member hostage for several hours, the National Football Federation said. The Internet was cut off for many residents as Haiti's largest mobile network said its fiber-optic connection was cut during the unrest.

    Gangs are increasingly coordinating their actions and choosing once unthinkable targets. After gangs opened fire at Haiti's international airport last week, the U.S. Embassy said it was temporarily halting all official travel to the country.

    Jimmy Cherizier, a former elite police officer known as Barbecue, who now heads Federation of Gangs, claimed responsibility for the wave of attacks. According to him, the goal was to capture the Haitian police chief and government ministers and prevent Henry from returning from abroad.

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