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Looters gather at Port-au-Prince port

US TROOPS firing into the air to try to disperse looters near the dock area of Port-au-Prince yesterday. But the US military police soon left the site, and looters continued to pillage a food warehouse, writes Phil Davison.

The same district suffered a wave of looting on Friday and a grenade attack on Thursday on a demonstration by supporters of exiled president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Elsewhere in the city, violence left at least six people dead on Friday. Many Haitians were incredulous that US troops, while protecting wealthy areas with dozens of tanks, stayed out of the centre of the capital, and allowed paramilitary attaches to run amok.

The clashes, suggesting that the country could slide into civil war, may endanger the return of exiled President Aristide in about two weeks' time.

(Photograph omitted)