Gang and police gunbattles paralyse area near Haiti's National Palace

People observe the body of a man lying on the street of the Delmas 30 neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, April 1, 2024
People observe the body of a man lying on the street of the Delmas 30 neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, April 1, 2024 Copyright AP
Copyright AP
By Euronews with AP
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At least one policeman was shot after he and other officers were forced to flee an armoured car that was later set on fire, according to local media reports.

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Heavy gunfire has erupted in the downtown area of Haiti’s capital as police battled gang members near the National Palace for several hours.

Scores of people were trapped by the gunfire in downtown Port-au-Prince on Monday, while dozens of others managed to flee. 

One man who declined to provide his name out of fear for his life told The Associated Press that he was stuck for five hours until police rescued him.

“It’s the armoured car that covered us (so we could) leave the area,” he said.

The latest gunbattle comes more than a month after gangs began attacking key government infrastructure. 

Gangs have torched police stations, opened fire on the main international airport and stormed the country’s two biggest prisons, releasing more than 4,000 inmates.

The violence has somewhat subsided in certain areas since erupting at the end of February, but gunfire still echoes daily.

At least 1,554 people have been reported killed up to 22 March and another 826 injured, according to the UN. 

The situation forced Prime Minister Ariel Henry to announce last month he would resign as soon as a transitional council is created. 

Henry, who was on an official trip to Kenya to push for the UN-backed deployment of a police force from the East African country, remains locked out of Haiti.

The proposed transitional council of nine members, which has yet to be formally established, will be responsible for choosing a new prime minister and council of ministers.

On Monday night, Haiti’s government issued a statement raising concerns over its creation, saying the current council of ministers "stumbled over proven constitutional and legal questions. The Constitution and Haitian laws nowhere provide for this institution.”

The government noted ministers met Monday to talk about the transitional council and shared the draft decree with legal experts so they “could finalise it and make it compliant with the laws of the republic.”

The current council of ministers also plans to create a joint commission to oversee the handover of responsibilities.

Haiti’s government noted Henry received a list of nine people nominated to the transitional council on Friday and a draft decree establishing the council on Sunday.

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