Two US citizens arrested over assassination of Haiti president Jovenel Moïse

In video from the scene, a man with an American accent can be heard yelling ‘this is a DEA operation’

Justin Vallejo
New York
,Danielle Zoellner
Friday 09 July 2021 14:50
Assailants pose as DEA as they enter Haitian president's residence
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Two American citizens were among the group of people arrested following the assassination of Haiti’s president Jovenel Moïse, the Associated Press reports.

In total, 17 suspects have been detained by police – 15 of whom were said to be from Colombia, Léon Charles, chief of Haiti’s National Police, said on Thursday night.

The police chief went on to state that eight more suspects were being sought and three people were killed by police following the assassination of Haiti’s president.

“We are going to bring them to justice,” Mr Charles said during the Thursday night news conference.

Haiti’s minister of elections and inter-party relations, Mathias Pierre, identified US citizens James Solages, 35, and Joseph Vincent, 55, as the two Americans detained. Mr Solages was described as being of Haitian descent and was one of the two survivors of a police shootout in the streets near the president’s house.

The US State Department has said it was aware of the reports that two Haitian Americans were in custody following the assassination, but the agency made no further comment on the matter, according to AP.

One of the two men who are under Police custody for allegedly participating in the assassination plot

The Colombian government said it was asked about six of the suspects detained in Haiti, including two who were killed. It was determined that the suspects were retired army, but no identities were released.

Colombian President Iván Duque ordered the high command of Colombia’s army and police to cooperate in the investigation.

Mr Pierre reportedly showed a video of two suspects being arrested to the jeers of a surrounding mob, while the crowd gathered around the police station where they were held.

“The special units are trying to protect the police station, because the population is very mad and is trying to get to them, to burn them,” he told The Washington Post. “We’re trying to avoid that.”

While the two men were photographed being taken into custody, it was not immediately clear which was Mr Solages and which was Mr Vincent.

One of the two men who are under Police custody for allegedly participating in the assassination plot

Mr Charles, chief of Haiti’s National Police, said they chased the attackers as they left the crime scene and had been battling them since they were cornered in a nearby house.

Three officers held hostage were released after police surrounded and cleared the suspected hideout.

Mr Moïse was shot dead and his wife was seriously wounded in an attack on their home by a group of men early on Wednesday.

Authorities continue to search for additional attackers.

“We will continue to hunt them down. Either they will be arrested, or they will be stopped in the exchange of fire. The pursuit will continue," Mr Charles said at a press conference.

While Mr Charles and the country’s prime minister described the "highly-trained commando" as foreigners that spoke Spanish, the country’s Minister of Culture and Communication Pradel Henriquez said there were Haitians among the group of attackers, according to Haiti’s French-language newspaper Le Nouvelliste.

Haiti’s envoy to the US said the assassination was carried out by foreigners who were "well-trained professionals, killers, commandos” while the country’s Prime Minister Dr Claude Joseph said they were an unidentified group of individuals, "some of whom were speaking in Spanish".

Mr Joseph’s reference to Spanish-speaking attackers came amid reports of video footage from the night of the attack on the president’s home showing the men claiming to be agents with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The national language of the country is Haitian Creole, similar to French-based Creole, with influences from Spanish, Portuguese and English. Spanish is spoken in the neighbouring Dominican Republic.

“DEA operation. Everybody stand down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down,” one of the men with an American accent is said to have yelled in English.

Haiti’s ambassador to the US, Bocchit Edmond, said at a press conference they were “fake DEA”, based on his impression from security camera footage.

Department of State spokesman Ned Price denied the US had any involvement in the murder.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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