Haiti Hundreds of prisoners escape from Port au Prince prison as violence

Haiti: Hundreds of prisoners escape from Port-au-Prince prison as violence escalates

Ralph Tedy Erol/Portal

Police officers confront a gang during a protest against Prime Minister Ariel Henry's government in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 1, 2024.


A law enforcement source said hundreds of prisoners escaped from the Haitian National Penitentiary in the capital Port-au-Prince after fighting broke out on Saturday.

In a post on “In the capital, no one will be spared as there will now be 3,000 additional bandits,” the statement said.

Multiple security sources in Port-au-Prince told CNN that the recent surge in violence, which began Thursday and targeted police stations, the international airport and the national prison, was unprecedented in recent years.

On Friday, Haitian gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, also known as Barbecue, said he would continue his efforts to overthrow Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

“We call on the Haitian National Police and military to take responsibility and arrest Ariel Henry. Again, the population is not our enemy; The armed groups are not your enemy. They are arresting Ariel Henry for liberating the country,” Cherizier said, adding: “With these weapons we will liberate the country, and these weapons will change the country.”

Cherizier is a former police officer who leads a gang alliance. He was sanctioned by both the United Nations and the U.S. Treasury Department.

Ralph Tedy Erol/Portal

Protesters in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 1, 2024.

Public frustration that had been building against Henry over his inability to contain the unrest boiled over after he failed to resign last month, citing escalating violence.

Under an earlier agreement, he had committed to holding elections and transferring power by February 7.

Caribbean leaders said on Wednesday that Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry had agreed to hold a general election no later than August 31, 2025.

The latest fighting, which erupted on Thursday, came as Henry visited Kenya to clarify details with Kenyan President William Ruto about the expected deployment of a multinational security assistance mission to Haiti.

Speaking to CNN, a Haitian law enforcement source said gangs had attacked several police stations across the city since Thursday, killing at least four people and burning some stations.

Meanwhile, gunfire near the airport on Thursday forced airlines to suspend flights.

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti issued a security alert Friday, warning of gunfire and traffic disruptions near domestic and international terminals and surrounding areas, including a hotel and the Central Directorate of Criminal Investigation.

Haiti has been hit by a wave of unrest and gang violence in recent years.

Warring gangs control much of Port-au-Prince and cut off important supply lines to the rest of the country. Gang members have also terrorized metropolitan populations, forcing over 300,000 people to flee their homes amid waves of indiscriminate killings, kidnappings, arson and rape.

About 1,100 people were killed, injured or kidnapped in January alone, in what the United Nations described as the most violent month in two years.