Chilling video has emerged of the moment Haiti's president was assassinated as security forces are locked in a gunfight with assailants believed to be responsible.
The video, taken by an eyewitness and circulated on WhatsApp, shows unidentified gunmen with weapons outside of the home of President Jovenel Moïse in the Pelerin 5 area in Port-au-Prince.
The video was taken on Wednesday about 1am (local time), with the masked gunmen seen guarding the outside of the home before the assassination.
The footage then blacks out while a number of gunshots are then heard, allegedly when the gunmen stormed the president's home.
The president was killed while his wife was wounded.
Haiti's security forces are now battling the group of gunmen who have so far killed four of the "mercenaries", police chief Leon Charles says.
"The police is still in combat with the assailants," Chief Charles said in a televised briefing on Wednesday night, saying two of the attackers had been detained.
"They will be killed or captured."
The government declared a two-week state of emergency to help it hunt down the killers whom Haiti's ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, described as a group of "foreign mercenaries" and well-trained killers.
He added they were masquerading as agents of the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
Haiti streets emptied after assassination
The assassination comes as the Caribbean country endures gang violence, soaring inflation and protests against the president's increasingly authoritarian rule.
Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph told The Associated Press he would be calling for an international investigation into the assassination.
Authorities declared a "state of siege" in the country and closed the international airport while there was confusion as to who will take control and widespread anxiety among Haitians.
The normally bustling streets of the capital, Port-au-Prince, were empty on Wednesday. Sporadic gunshots were heard in the distance, public transportation was scarce, and some people searched for businesses that were open for food and water.
Demand for assassinated president to step down
Haiti appeared to be heading for fresh volatility ahead of general elections later this year.
Moïse had been ruling by decree for more than a year after failing to hold elections, and the opposition demanded he step down in recent months, saying he was leading it toward yet another grim period of authoritarianism.
It was a testament to Haiti’s fragile political situation that Joseph, a protege of Moïse who was only supposed to be prime minster temporarily, found himself in charge.
But Haiti appears to have few other options. The Supreme Court’s chief justice, who might be expected to help provide stability in a crisis, died recently of Covid-19.
The main opposition parties said they were greatly dismayed by the killing.
“In this painful circumstance, the political forces of the opposition condemn with utmost rigour this heinous crime that is at odds with democratic principles,” their statement said.
The parties added they hoped the National Police would take all necessary measures to protect lives and property, and they called on Haitians to be "extremely vigilant".
With Associated Press
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