The president of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, has been assassinated in his home by a group of armed men who also seriously injured his wife, according to a statement and comments made by the country’s interim prime minister.
Speaking on a local radio station, Claude Joseph confirmed that Moïse, 53, had been killed, saying the attack was carried out by an “armed commando group” that included foreigners.
In a televised national address later on Wednesday, Joseph declared a state of emergency across the country, and made a call for calm. “The situation is under control,” he said.
Late on Wednesday Haiti’s communications secretary said police had arrested the “presumed assassins”. Frantz Exantus did not provide further details about the killing or say how many suspects had been arrested. The police chief later said officers were fighting with the group and that four had been shot dead and another two arrested.
According to the Haitian ambassador to Washington, Bocchit Edmond, Moïse’s killers claimed to be members of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as they entered his guarded residence.
“This was a well-orchestrated commando attack,” Edmond told the Guardian. “They presented themselves as DEA agents, telling people they had come as part of a DEA operation.”
In videos circulating on social media, a man with an American accent is heard saying in English over a megaphone: “DEA operation. Everybody stand down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down.”
Residents reported hearing gunshots and seeing men dressed in black running through the neighbourhood.
“It could be foreign mercenaries, because the video footage showed them speaking in Spanish,” Edmond said. “It was something carried out by professionals, by killers … But since the investigation has been just been opened, we prefer to wait on legal authorities to have a better assessment of the situation. We don’t know for sure, with real certainty, who’s behind this.
“This is an act of barbarity. It’s an attack on our democracy,” he said.