PORT-AU-PRINCE ( Associated Press) — It was around 6 a.m. when Venique Moïse opened the door to her home and saw dozens of people running — children in one hand and scant possessions in the other — as gunfire intensified. .
Minutes later, she joined the crowd with her three children and fled her neighborhood in Haiti’s capital as fires burned nearby, collapsing homes where the bodies of nearly 200 men, women and children were found hours later. shot or mutilated with machetes by warring gangs, along with the skulls and bones of the victims set on fire at the end of April.
“That Sunday, when the war started, I felt like I was going to die,” Moïse said.
Gangs clash with each other and take over territory in the capital Port-au-Prince with a new intensity and brutality. The violence has horrified many who feel the country is rapidly unraveling as it tries to recover from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and the United Nations prepares to debate the future of its longstanding presence in Haiti.
Experts noted that the scale and duration of gang clashes, the power criminals wield and the amount of territory they control have reached unprecedented levels.
The gangs have caused the closure of schools, shops and hospitals while raiding new neighbourhoods, taking control of the main roads connecting the capital with the rest of the country and kidnapping victims on a daily basis, including eight Turkish citizens who remain captives, according to authorities.
They are also recruiting more children than before, giving them heavy weapons and forming temporary alliances with other gangs in an attempt to seize more territory for economic and political gain ahead of the country’s general elections, said Jaime Vigil Recinos, police commissioner for the United Nations in Haiti.
“It’s amazing,” he told The Associated Press, noting that gang clashes are turning into protracted and ruthless affairs. “We are talking about something that Haiti has not experienced before.”
Between April 24 and May 16, at least 92 civilians and 96 suspected gang members were killed, and another 113 were injured, 12 were missing and 49 were kidnapped for ransom, according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for human rights. The office warned that the actual number of people killed “may be much higher.”