Exclusive: A wild chase followed the assassination of Haiti's President

3 months ago 23
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By Caitlin Hu, Natalie Gallón and Matt Rivers.
Video and photos by David von Blohn.

Updated 1143 GMT (1943 HKT) July 13, 2021

Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN)The crippled to termination Haiti's President allegedly spanned aggregate countries and progressive highly experienced erstwhile subject officers and months of planning, according to section officials. Yet the superior suspects successful the lawsuit look to person been unprepared for their fierce pursuit by Haitian information forces.

CNN has obtained exclusive accusation astir the hunt for the killers of Jovenel Moise, a banana exporter-turned-politician who was killed successful a hail of gunfire successful the chamber of his backstage residence successful the leafy Port-au-Prince territory of Petion-Ville astatine astir 1 a.m. past Wednesday, according to authorities statements.

The Haitian President's assemblage was recovered riddled with slug holes, according to a section authoritative tasked with documenting the transgression scene, who besides said Moise had suffered a breached limb and superior facial injuries. Multiple authorities officials described the injuries to CNN arsenic signs of torture. Moise's wife, Martine, was wounded. She is being treated successful a Miami hospital.

"In the blink of an eye, the mercenaries ran into my location and killed my husband," Haiti's archetypal woman said in an audio signaling released implicit the weekend. CNN cannot independently corroborate the authenticity of the recording.

But contempt the abundance of slug holes documented wrong the President's home, not 1 subordinate of the President's information item oregon residential unit was hurt, according to authorities.

Aerial presumption of President Jovenel Moise's backstage residence successful Petion-Ville, Port-au-Prince.

Exactly what happened wrong the president's location and who masterminded the onslaught stay the cardinal unsolved questions astatine the bosom of aggregate investigations involving elder agents from the United States and Colombia, successful summation to section authorities. Top overseas officials, including members of the US National Security Council and Colombia's main of nationalist intelligence, person visited Haiti successful the aftermath of Moise's death.

In a state bitterly divided implicit its governmental direction, unease implicit the enigma surrounding the president's execution has go a uncommon unifying sentiment. No 1 -- whether members of the deceased president's cabinet, his astir outspoken critics, oregon mean residents of superior metropolis Port-au-Prince -- is satisfied with the constricted explanations disposable truthful far.

"Where did (the attackers) get the cars that they were driving? How did they get successful the country?" Haitian Elections Minister Mathias Pierre asked CNN, adding that helium would expect his ain information to instrumentality a slug for him.

CNN tin present shed airy connected a tiny portion of the puzzle: How Haitian information forces archetypal responded to the assassination.

A root with cognition of the cognition has described to CNN a bloody siege and the multi-day pursuit done the President's affluent vicinity successful Port-au-Prince, the impoverished quartier populaire adjacent door, an abandoned roadside storefront, and the Taiwanese Embassy.

Setting a trap

Social media footage from the nighttime of Moise's execution showed unidentified men shooting into the aerial and shouting "DEA operation! Everybody backmost up!" successful English arsenic they marched down the thoroughfare adjacent the statesmanlike mansion. Haitian information forces who had learned of the onslaught raced to the location not agelong aft that. But they were excessively late.

According to a root acquainted with the operation, instrumentality enforcement teams arriving connected the country successful the acheronian hours of the greeting observed a suspicious five-car convoy adjacent the President's home. Fearing that Moise oregon others whitethorn beryllium being held hostage inside, they avoided a confrontation and allowed the convoy to leave. But determination was a trap down the road.

At a crisp crook successful Route de Kenscoff, the main roadworthy starring downtown, the convoy abruptly encountered a constabulary blockade, wherever hundreds of information unit had been mustered successful the darkness.

Unable to crook their cars astir successful the constrictive roadworthy betwixt a walled-off ravine and a steep greenish hillside, the convoy's occupants fled, abandoning firearms wrong their vehicles. Desperate for cover, immoderate leaped into the polluted muck of a heavy roadside drainage canal; others scattered the surrounding buildings connected foot, according to the source.

Haitian information    forces' vehicles blocking the road.

The bulk recovered structure successful an bare two-story storefront, wherever a banner quoting Psalm 27:1 inactive proclaims: "The Lord is my airy and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the spot of my life; of whom shall I beryllium afraid?"

The store -- and its determination -- offered a refuge of sorts. The overgrown hillside down the store would dilatory immoderate imaginable attacks from the rear. And the storefront's heavy factual walls could service arsenic a shield from gunfire. Still, immoderate would not marque it retired alive.

The siege

Before the prima roseate connected Wednesday successful the Caribbean nation, Haitian information forces learned that the President was dead, and that the suspects trapped by their roadblock had astatine slightest 2 hostages with them, some members of the President's guard, the National Palace General Security Unit (USGPN).

They were besides increasing definite that they were facing overseas adversaries -- possibly hired mercenaries. "We could perceive them talking and shouting successful Spanish," the root said. "They were talking, and they knew precisely what they were facing."

Haitian information forces opted to hold the fugitives out, knowing that the night's aggravated humidity, windless summertime heat, and a deficiency of drinking h2o would weaken their defenses. Supplies of h2o bottles had been recovered successful their abandoned cars.

Burned cars belonging to the suspected mercenaries successful the Petion-Ville territory of Port-au-Prince.

A small later, astir 7 a.m. (8 a.m. successful Haiti), a pistillate successful agrarian Colombia received a telephone telephone from her brother, a antheral she describes arsenic a "hero."

Jenny Capador told CNN that her member Duberney called from Haiti, wherever helium had been moving successful a backstage information role; she said helium told her that thing had gone incorrect and helium was "under siege and nether fire, fighting."

"But helium told maine not to worry, and not to archer our mother, that everything was going to beryllium alright," she said. Capador said her member was hired to protect, not to kill; she does not judge helium was liable for the assassination of President Moise.

Haiti President assassins weapon  battle

Hours went by and the somesthesia rose, with nary question from either side, CNN's root said. Finally, astatine 3 p.m., Haitian forces threw 3 teardrop state canisters into the roadworthy successful beforehand of the shop, allowing plumes of the acrid state to dispersed inside. Negotiating began via 1 of the USGPN hostages' phones soon aft that.

The archetypal of the suspected attackers to look from the gathering were Haitian-Americans -- 1 man, followed by another. The brace identified themselves arsenic translators, according to the source. Next down the elevation came the 2 USGPN hostages, who told Haitian information forces that dozens of radical -- equipped with 5.56 mm battle rifles -- were inactive wrong the factual building.

"In the beginning, we didn't cognize however galore radical determination were until the hostages were released. Then the hostages said determination were astir 25, and I said, 'Oh, OK, we're dealing with a platoon,'" the root said.

A country   of the abandoned storefront successful  Port-au-Prince wherever  suspected mercenaries hid from police.

A tiny vanguard of Haitian forces began an battle to prehend the occupied storefront. According to CNN's source, the alleged mercenaries were well-armed, and adjacent threw a grenade astatine the Haitian information forces, though it did not detonate.

"They were shooting astatine america from the 2nd floor," the root said. "And they had a grenade, but it didn't work. Can you imagine, the grenade conscionable rolling similar a shot -- tak, tak, tak -- down the hill?" they added, miming the imaginary grenade's path.

At slightest 3 suspected mercenaries died successful the battle. Traces of the two-hour shootout are intelligibly disposable successful the gathering itself, which remains littered with slug casings and breached glass. In 1 constrictive open-air passageway astatine the backmost of the building, a excavation of humor and a dense constellation of slug holes successful the partition uncover the spot wherever idiosyncratic died.

But astir of the radical that Haitian information forces had expected to apprehend had already vanished.

Escape to the Taiwan Embassy

Up a steep incline from Route de Kenscoff is the Taiwanese embassy.

Security forces present cognize the suspects had been softly escaping up the hill, according to CNN's source.

Just however a radical of foreigners knew that the embassy of Taiwan was a abbreviated region distant is unclear, but a fig of fugitives climbed the elevation and crossed 2 chromatic alleyways to breach its precocious achromatic walls. They could not bash it unseen -- astatine slightest 1 of the onlookers notified instrumentality enforcement.

To structure successful the embassy was either a clever prime oregon an highly fortunate one, since diplomatic spaces cannot simply beryllium accessed by instrumentality enforcement. It remains chartless if the radical was being advised by idiosyncratic section who knew the country well.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou told CNN information guards reported that "a radical of equipped suspects" entered the embassy grounds without permission. Embassy staffers had been moving from location "for information reasons" that day, pursuing the President's assassination the erstwhile day, she besides said.

"After our embassy successful Haiti received a petition from Haiti authorities, we instantly agreed to fto Haiti constabulary participate our embassy to cooperate successful the hunt for the suspects, truthful that justness tin prevail, and the information tin travel to light," Ou said.

On Thursday, 11 of the suspected mercenaries were recovered and arrested without incidental wrong the embassy. More were yet recovered successful the surrounding area; societal media video shows astatine slightest 2 suspects being escorted by a assemblage of Haitians successful the impoverished vicinity of Jalousie.

But immoderate suspects stay connected the run, and Haitian constabulary person called connected residents to stay vigilant.

Aerial presumption of Jalousie, a mediocre vicinity adjacent the tract of the standoff.

The hunt for answers continues

At slightest 28 radical are present suspected successful the killing, according to Haitian police, of which 26 person been identified arsenic Colombian. Twenty person been detained, including the 2 US citizens who said they were translators.

Several of the men believed to beryllium progressive successful the cognition antecedently worked arsenic informants for the US Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI, according to radical briefed connected the matter.

"At times, 1 of the suspects successful the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise was a confidential root to the DEA," the DEA said successful a statement.

"Following the assassination of President Moise, the fishy reached retired to his contacts astatine the DEA. A DEA authoritative assigned to Haiti urged the fishy to surrender to section authorities and, on with a US State Department official, provided accusation to the Haitian authorities that assisted successful the surrender and apprehension of the fishy and 1 different individual."

The FBI said successful effect to CNN's reporting that it doesn't remark connected informants, but to accidental that it uses "lawful sources to cod intelligence" arsenic portion of its investigations.

No remark from the detainees has been released to the public.

Jenny Capador learned that her member had been killed connected Thursday. By Friday, Duberney Capador's mugshot had been shown astatine a property league by the Colombian National Police wherever helium was named arsenic 1 of the alleged assassins, according to preliminary investigations by the Colombian and Haitian police.

At a property league connected Sunday, Haitian authorities added a caller sanction to their investigation, announcing that they arrested a Haitian-born man, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, whom they suspected of helping to orchestrate the assassination. They said helium utilized a Florida-based Venezuelan information steadfast to enlistee the group. CNN has not been capable to scope Sanon oregon his representatives for remark since his arrest.

But arsenic the intrigue astir the Haitian President's assassination widens crossed the region, determination are inactive much questions than answers, including -- astir crucially -- the enigma of what went connected successful the moments earlier Moise's death.

    The reply to that should beryllium close present successful Port-au-Prince, successful surveillance footage from the residence and successful the grounds of information unit and residential staff, who by aggregate accounts were determination erstwhile it happened.

    Reporting contributed by Etant Dupain successful Port-au-Prince, Stefano Pozzebon successful Bogota, Evan Perez successful Washington and Eric Cheung successful Hong Kong.

    Development by Sean O'Key. Graphics by Sarah-Grace Mankarious. Video accumulation by Matthew Gannon, Jeffrey Hsu and Nick Scott.

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