Haiti authorities arrest more suspects in president's killing

 Haiti’s interim government has asked the U.S. to deploy troops to protect key infrastructure as it tries to stabilize the country and prepare the way for elections in the aftermath of the assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

“We definitely need assistance and we’ve asked our international partners for help,” interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph told the Associated Press in an interview, declining to provide further details. “We believe our partners can assist the national police in resolving the situation.”

“I’m not interested in a power struggle,” Joseph said in the brief phone interview, without mentioning Lambert by name. “There’s only one way people can become president in Haiti. And that’s through elections. So I’m asking everyone to work together so the country can have an elected president.”

Several Colombians have been implicated in Moise’s assassination. They were recruited by four companies and traveled to the Caribbean nation in two groups via the Dominican Republic, the head of Colombia’s police said Friday.

Haitian National Police Chief Léon Charles said 17 suspects have been detained in the brazen killing of Moise that stunned a nation already reeling from poverty, widespread violence and political instability.

Joseph said that he was dismayed by opponents who’ve tried to take advantage of Moise’s killing to seize political power — an indirect reference to a group of lawmakers who have declared their loyalty and recognized Joseph Lambert, the head of Haiti’s dismantled Senate, as provisional president and Ariel Henry, whom Moise designated as prime minister a day before he was killed, as prime minister.

As the investigation moved forward, the killing took on the air of a complicated international conspiracy. Besides the Colombians, among those detained by police were two Haitian Americans, who have been described as translators for the attackers. Some of the suspects were seized in a raid on the Taiwanese Embassy, where they are believed to have sought refuge.

At a news conference in Colombia’s capital of Bogota, Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas Valencia said four companies had been involved in the “recruitment, the gathering of these people” implicated in the assassination, although he did not identify the companies because their names were still being verified.

Two of the suspects traveled to Haiti via Panama and the Dominican Republic, Vargas said, while a second group of 11 arrived in Haiti on July 4 from the Dominican Republic.

In Washington, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said senior FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials will be sent to Haiti “as soon as possible to assess the situation and how we may be able to assist.”

“The United States remains engaged and in close consultations with our Haitian and international partners to support the Haitian people in the aftermath of the assassination of the president,” Psaki said.

Eight other suspects are still at large, Charles said.

“We are going to bring them to justice,” the police chief said, as the 17 handcuffed suspects sat on the floor during a news conference Thursday.

Investigative Judge Clément Noël told the French-language newspaper Le Nouvelliste that the Haitian Americans arrested, James Solages and Joseph Vincent, said the attackers originally planned only to arrest Moise, not kill him.

The attack, which took place at Moise’s home before dawn Wednesday, also seriously wounded his wife, who was flown to Miami for treatment.

Joseph, who assumed leadership with the backing of police and the military, declared a two-week “state of siege” in Haiti. The capital city of Port-au-Prince already had been on edge amid the growing power of gangs that have displaced more than 14,700 people last month alone as they torched and ransacked homes in a fight over territory.

The killing brought the usually bustling capital to a standstill, but Joseph urged the public to return to work. Street markets, supermarkets, banks and gas stations reopened Friday, and people lined up to buy fuel again.

Vargas has pledged Colombia’s full cooperation after Haiti said about six of the suspects, including two of the three killed, were retired members of Colombia’s army. U.S.-trained Colombian soldiers are heavily recruited by private security firms in global conflict zones because of their experience in fighting leftist rebels and powerful drug cartels.

The wife of one former Colombian soldier in custody said he was recruited by a security firm to travel to the Dominican Republic last month.

The woman, who identified herself only as Yuli, told Colombia’s W Radio that her husband, Francisco Uribe, was hired for $2,700 a month by a company named CTU to travel to the Dominican Republic, where he was told he would provide protection to some powerful families. She says she last spoke to him at 10 p.m. Wednesday — almost a day after Moise’s killing — and he said he was on guard duty at a house where he and others were staying.

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