Chaos grips Haiti
St. Marc, Haiti — Hundreds of Haitians looted TV sets, mattresses and sacks of flour from shipping containers Sunday in this port town, one of several communities seized by rebels in a bloody uprising against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Using felled trees, flaming tires and car chassis, residents blocked streets throughout St. Marc a day after militants drove out police in gunbattles that killed two people. Many residents have formed neighborhood groups to back insurgents in their push to expel the president.
"After Aristide leaves, the country will return to normal," said Axel Philippe, 34, among dozens massed on the highway leading to St. Marc, a city of about 100,000 located some 70 kilometres northwest of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
At least 18 people have been killed since armed opponents of Mr. Aristide began their assault Thursday, setting police stations on fire and driving officers from the northwestern city of Gonaïves — Haiti's fourth-largest city — and several smaller nearby towns.
Anger has been brewing in Haiti since Mr. Aristide's party won flawed legislative elections in 2000. The opposition refuses to join in any new vote unless the President resigns; he insists on serving out his term, which ends in 2006.
Clashes between government opponents, police and Aristide supporters have killed at least 69 people since mid-September.
In the bloodiest fights of recent days, 150 police tried to retake control of Gonaïves on Saturday but left hours later after meeting fierce resistance, witnesses said. At least nine people were killed, seven of them police, in gunbattles with rebels hiding on side streets and crouched in doorways.
Crowds mutilated and beat the corpses of three police officers. One body was dragged through the street as a man swung at it with a machete, and a woman cut off the officer's ear. Another policeman was lynched and stripped to his shorts, and residents dropped large rocks on his body.
Haitian radio stations reported claims by other rebels that as many as 14 police were killed in Gonaïves on Saturday, but that could not be confirmed.
Before dawn Sunday, arsonists burned down a two-story building in northern Cap-Haïtien housing the studio of Radio Vision 2000, the independent Haitian broadcaster said.
Rebels continued to rule the streets of Gonaïves on Sunday, witnesses said, though it was unclear how many armed militants were the city of 200,000.
Calling the violence acts of terrorism, the government has vowed to regain control of the area, but it was unclear when police planned to return.
Police have deserted at least six other nearby towns, including Ennery, Gros Morne, L'Estere, Anse Rouge, Petite Rivière de l'Artibonite and Trou du Nord, according to the Haitian Press Network, a local news service.
Attackers set fire to the police stations of Gonaïves, St. Marc and Trou du Nord. In St. Marc, the courthouse also was gutted by flames.
One 22-year-old bystander in St. Marc, David Saint-Louis, was wounded by a gunshot in the chest Sunday and said it was a police officer — in civilian clothing but wearing a badge — who fired at him near a barricade.
A number of people in both Gonaïves and St. Marc said they formed neighbourhood committees to aid the militants and keep watch over their areas.
The recent violence started Thursday when members of the Gonaïves Resistance Front, took control of the Gonaïves police station during a five-hour gunbattle. They set fire to buildings — including the mayor's house — and freed more than 100 prisoners from the city jail. Those clashes left at least seven dead and 20 injured.
The Gonaïves Resistance Front used to be allied with Mr. Aristide. But it turned against him last year and changed its name from the "Cannibal Army," accusing the government of killing its leader Amiot Metayer to keep him from releasing damaging information about Mr. Aristide. The government denies it.
Some gunmen in Gonaïves wore the camouflage pants and helmets of Haiti's disbanded army. The army ousted Mr. Aristide in 1991 during his first term. He was restored in a 1994 U.S. invasion and then disbanded the army, replacing it with a new civilian police force.
The Haitian government says these rebels are terrorists.
Shouldn't that mean that the US military, in the interests of defending justice, peace, freedom, etc.(ad nauseum) need to get shooting at some Haitian terrorists?