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HAITI, Toussaint Louverture, prison, National Penitentiary, international aiport, Port-au-Prince, gangs

Groups of heavily armed gangs launched an audacious bid to seize command of the Toussaint Louverture International Airport, Haiti’s main international airport, on March 4, according to ABC News. The assailants engaged in intense exchanges of gunfire with law enforcement and military personnel during the attempted takeover.

The brazen assault represents the most recent in a string of attacks targeting vital government buildings, signaling a disturbing escalation of violence across the Caribbean nation. According to a Haitian law enforcement insider present at the scene, several dozen gunmen affiliated with gangs allegedly managed to breach the perimeter wall of the Toussaint Louverture International Airport, situated on the outskirts of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. Engaging in a fierce exchange of gunfire, the assailants confronted Haitian police and soldiers as they attempted to advance towards the airport’s main building with the intention of seizing control. However, their efforts were thwarted, ABC News noted.

One Haitian police officer allegedly sustained injuries during the confrontation and later succumbed to them at a nearby hospital, a source within the Haitian police department said. The exact number of attackers injured or killed remains unknown at this time.

The Toussaint Louverture International Airport was shut down after the attempted seizure and no flights were allowed to leave or enter Haiti. Flights will continue to be suspended in the area until further notice.

Stephane Dujarric, a spokesperson from the U.N., said gang activity had been on the rise in the area.

“The secretary-general is deeply concerned by the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Port-au-Prince, where armed gangs have intensified their attacks on critical infrastructure over the weekend,” Dujarric said in a statement to the Associated Press. 

Gang members reportedly freed inmates from National Penitentiary and Croix-des-Bouquets Prison on March 3.

The heinous attack occurred just hours after Haitian authorities implemented a nighttime curfew on March 3 in response to armed gang members successfully storming the nation’s two largest prisons and freeing thousands of inmates.

According to the Associated Press, about 98 inmates from the National Penitentiary escaped, while 1,033 were set free from Croix-des-Bouquets prison, including 298 convicts. Many of the escaped inmates were on pre-trial detention for “slayings, kidnappings and other crimes,” the outlet noted.

“The police were ordered to use all legal means at their disposal to enforce the curfew and apprehend all offenders,” Finance Minister Patrick Boivert, the acting prime minister, revealed.

Gangs are believed to have established control over as much as 80% of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital city. Prime Minister Ariel Henry journeyed to Kenya last week to seek help and financial support from officials in order to quell the escalating violence.

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