US embassy in Haiti urges citizens to leave country 'as soon as possible'

FILE PHOTO: People protest for an end to gang violence, in Port-au-Prince

(Reuters) - The U.S. Embassy in Haiti on Wednesday urged citizens in the Caribbean country to leave "as soon as possible" citing security and infrastructure challenges, as escalating violence has left thousands displaced and sent homicides soaring.

"U.S. citizens in Haiti should depart Haiti as soon as possible via commercial or private transport," the embassy said in a statement, urging extreme caution.

An escalating gang turf war in Haiti has caused a devastating humanitarian crisis that has displaced around 200,000 nationwide and left some 5.2 million people - nearly half of Haiti's population – in need of humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Embassy in the capital Port-au-Prince temporarily closed, due to gunfire in the vicinity.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Boyle and Jasper Ward; Editing by Isabel Woodford and Bill Berkrot)