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Kids executed, raped as Haitian gang wars intensify, United Nations warns

Church set on fire as gang tried to kill opponents

Haiti
Tires are burning following a call for a general strike by several professional associations and businesses to denounce the insecurity in Port-au-Prince on October 18, 2021. |

The United Nations has warned that innocent women and children have been executed and raped as gang wars have intensified in and around the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, stating that children as young as 1 year old have had their bodies burned. 

The United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti said in a report this week a fight between two gang coalitions killed at least 94 residents, wounded over 120 and led to the disappearance of of 12 others between April 24 and May 16. Nearly 16,000 people fled their homes to take refuge in make-shift sites or in relatives' homes. 

"Armed with assault rifles, but also with machetes and gas cans, gangs spared no one," the report states.

"Women and children as young as one year old, were executed and their bodies burned. Young teenagers, accused of spying for the opposite side, were shot in public spaces. Rape against women and girls, some of whom were less than 10 years old, was used as a weapon to terrorize and take revenge on the local populations living in neighborhoods controlled by rival gangs."

The criminal groups said to be responsible for the acts are known as "Chen Mechan" and "400 Mawozo," with the support of their respective allies the "G9 in Family and Allies." According to the U.N. Integrated Office for Haiti, coalitions between gangs are not new in Port-au-Prince and became a prominent issue during President Jovenel Moïse's administration. 

The increased gang fighting has made it dangerous for vulnerable local communities to live in the unstable Caribbean country.

"This recent outbreak of armed violence in Cite Soleil, Croix- des-Bouquets and Tabarre shows that they persist and have even intensified with the probable implication of political and economic actors already involved back then," the report reads. 

Last Wednesday, communities in downtown Port-au-Prince witnessed heavy gunfire as suspected members of the G9 gang coalition set a transitional church on fire and tried to kill their opponents in an attempt to gain control over more territory from rival gangs, The Associated Press reports.

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated in an alert last month that 934 were killed, 684 injured and 680 kidnapped across the capital from January to the end of June. Over the five days from July 8 to July 12, at least 234 people were killed or injured in gang-related violence in the Cité Soleil area, according to OHCHR spokesperson Jeremy Laurence.

Laurence urged the authorities in Haiti to ensure fundamental rights are protected and "placed at the front and center of their responses to the crisis."

"The fight against impunity and sexual violence, along with the strengthening of human rights monitoring and reporting, must remain a priority," Laurence said. 

"Most of the victims were not directly involved in gangs and were directly targeted by gang elements. We have also received new reports of sexual violence."

Gangs have grown more powerful since the July 7, 2021, assassination of President Moïse, as Haiti is struggling in its social and political aftermath. The country is yet to recover from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 2,200 people last August.

Last year, the U.S. State Department urged Americans to "depart Haiti now."

"The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to make plans to depart Haiti now via commercial means. U.S. citizens should carefully consider the risks of traveling to or remaining in Haiti in light of the current security situation and infrastructure challenges," a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Haiti said at the time.

Last December, the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries announced that all the 17 missionaries who were kidnapped by the notorious 400 Mawozo gang in Haiti had been released.

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