PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Haitian police arrested a group of foreign nationals, including five Americans, armed with semi-automatic weapons, Haitian newspapers reported on Monday, adding to uncertainty in the impoverished Caribbean country after days of anti-government protests.
The U.S. State Department was aware that Haitian police arrested a group that included U.S. citizens, an official at the department said on Monday. Haitian police did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported that seven foreigners and a Haitian were in the group picked up by police on Sunday night. Police found rifles, pistols, drones and satellite phones in their two vehicles, the newspaper said.
Other media said several of the men were U.S. citizens, one was Serbian and another from Russia.
Haitian newspapers printed names that corresponded to social media profiles of U.S. citizens claiming military backgrounds.
The State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said U.S. citizens arrested overseas were entitled to appropriate consular assistance. The official declined to provide further comment, citing privacy.
Reuters was not immediately able to independently confirm the identities of the arrested men.
Since Feb. 7, thousands of demonstrators have called for President Jovenel Moise to resign and for an independent probe into the whereabouts of funds from the PetroCaribe agreement, an alliance between Caribbean countries and OPEC member Venezuela.
The State Department last week ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. personnel and their families from Haiti, and advised U.S. citizens not to travel there.
(Reporting by Jeanty Junior Augustin in Port-au-Prince, Matt Spetalnick, Steve Holland and Jeff Mason in Washington, Daniel Trotta in New York and Ezequiel Abiu Lopez in Santo Domingo; Editing by Tom Brown and Peter Cooney)