There is chaos in Haiti Gangs attack key targets like.com2F602Fd52F721dbaa941bc396180ee0ea7a7dc2F8183e4e75c6641fbb84f7ebfca185c8f

There is chaos in Haiti. Gangs attack key targets like prisons while alliances change

Increasingly powerful gangs have attacked prisons and the airport in Haiti's capital in recent days, forcing businesses and schools to close as hundreds of people fled.

According to the United Nations, heavily armed criminal groups have become more powerful than the weak Haitian government and now control about 80% of Port-au-Prince.

The latest attacks began Thursday when Prime Minister Ariel Henry flew to Kenya to push for the United Nations-backed deployment of a police force to help fight gangs.

Fierce shootings occur daily in the capital, overwhelming government troops. National Police Director Frantz Elbé told Radio Caraïbes last week that many of his officers were unable to respond due to recent attacks.

“There was a war going on downtown,” he explained.

Government officials introduced a three-day nighttime curfew starting Monday to curb the violence, although most residents are already spending the night at home to protect themselves.

Here's what we know about the recent crisis:

Why is violence suddenly increasing in Haiti?

Some of the leaders of Haiti's most powerful gangs say their goal is to overthrow Henry.

The country has not held general or parliamentary elections in recent years and has no elected officials. Henry was sworn in as Prime Minister with the support of the international community after President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July 2021. The latest wave of attacks began in late February after Henry promised to hold the long-awaited election. 2025.

On Saturday, gunmen stormed Port-au-Prince's main prison and another nearby prison, freeing more than 4,700 inmates in a raid that left several people dead.

As of Monday, Henry's whereabouts were unknown. When asked in Kenya whether the situation was safe for him to return to Haiti, the prime minister shrugged.


As his men began attacking infrastructure, Jimmy Chérizier – a former elite police officer known as “Barbecue” and considered one of the country's most powerful gang leaders – announced that he would try to capture the national police chief and minister.

Four police officers died in attacks on their barracks.

In the middle of last year, Chérizier declared that he would fight any international force if it committed abuses and called on the population to mobilize against the government.

Other gang leaders also appear to be involved in the recent attacks.

Johnson André, better known as “Izo” and leader of the 5 Second Gang, appears in a video posted to TikTok in which he swings a sledgehammer with his right hand while simulating hitting himself in the face with his left.

Izo's gang is considered an ally of G-Pep, a bitter rival to the Barbecue Gang Association, but in recent days the alliances have shifted.

In a report published last month, the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime revealed that “the development of gang alliances is a fluid phenomenon.”

He also pointed out that “only the most powerful gangs – like those of Izo or Chérizier – are usually able to operate or benefit from outside their sphere of influence.”

Barbecue leads a gang association called G9 Fanmi e Alye (“The G9 Family and Allies”) and has previously launched major attacks that have paralyzed the country. At the end of 2022, it took control of the area around a key fuel terminal in Port-au-Prince for almost two months.

Why have Haitian gangs become so powerful?

It is estimated that there are around 200 gangs in Haiti, with the 23 main gangs believed to operate in the greater Port-au-Prince area.

According to UN officials, until a few years ago they controlled about 60% of the capital, but this figure has now increased to 80%.

Gun smuggling and paying ransoms to kidnappers have allowed gangs to become more financially independent. This has increased their power as the state has weakened and an underfunded and underequipped police department has been unable to contain them.

“Today’s gangs have a much greater level of military capability than those of a decade ago,” the Global Initiative report said. “This is largely due to the gangs’ ability to obtain heavy weapons.”

A UN report published in 2023 found that seized weapons transported to ports in Haiti included “.50-caliber sniper rifles, .308-caliber rifles and even belt-fed machine guns.”

What is the government doing to combat violence in Haiti?

Finance Minister Patrick Boivert, who is serving as interim prime minister, declared a state of emergency on Sunday evening and said authorities would impose a nighttime curfew to “take appropriate measures to bring the situation back under control.”

The three-day curfew began on Monday and is in effect from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m.

“The police have been ordered to use all legal means at their disposal to enforce the curfew and arrest any criminals,” Boivert said in a statement.