Haiti’s prime minister, Ariel Henry, was forced to flee a ceremony in honor of Haitian founding father Jean-Jacques Desalins, when gunmen opened fire on him and rushed to the scene.
The attack came days after a bus full of American missionaries was hijacked by gang members in Port-au-Prince. U.S. officials are working with Haitian authorities to discuss their release. The kidnappers are demanding 10 million per person – a total of million 1 million to secure the release of the hostages.
The annual ceremony in memory of Desalins, who led the island nation when it became the first to abolish slavery in the Western Hemisphere, was the first emperor of Haiti. Desaline was assassinated in 1806.
According to The Guardian, the prime minister and his entourage could not even reach the venue because of the gunmen. Instead of Henry, Kingpin Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherzier and his gang members are in charge of the memorial service. The head of the G9 gang in Cherijia, a group of nine Haitian gangs based in Port-au-Prince.
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The social media video shows Cherzier handing out wreaths and paying homage to Desalins while wearing a white suit and shirt, which is Haiti’s dress code for officials on national holidays.
On Sunday, several members of the Cherijia gang were seen wearing T-shirts with pictures of former Haitian president Jovenal Moses, who was assassinated in July, with the word “Justice for Jovelen” on them.
The missionaries belong to an Ohio-based church organization and authorities believe they were taken hostage by the “400 Maozo” gang. It is not clear if Cherzier, a former police officer, has any ties to them, but he claims to be a community leader providing protection from rival gangs, Human Rights Watch reports.
Prime Minister Henry is under investigation in Haiti over the July 7 assassination of Moyes. The former president was killed in an overnight attack on his home.