Colombia probes four companies over Haitian Prez’s assassination

Colombia is investigating four companies for hiring 17 former military personnel who are allegedly involved in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, authorities said.

“The official information we have (from Haiti) is that 15 people have been captured, and we have been asked about the Colombian nationals as well as two people who died in a police procedure,” Director of the Colombian Police Jorge Luis Vargas said during a press conference here on Friday.

The Haitian president was assassinated on Wednesday at his residence by a commando of mercenaries pitching the poorest country in the Americas deeper into turmoil amidst political divisions, hunger, and widespread gang violence.

The four companies under investigation allegedly hired the ex-servicemen, initially taking them to the Dominican Republic and later moving them to Haiti, Vargas said.

Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano said initial findings indicated that Colombians suspected of taking part in the assassination were retired members of his country’s armed forces, and pledged to support the investigations in Haiti.

“We began to gather a database with the 196 countries that make up Interpol for timely clarification, which allows us to share the collected data with Haiti,” he added.

Police tracked the suspected assassins on Wednesday to a house near the scene of the crime in Petionville, a northern, hillside suburb of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

A firefight lasted late into the night and authorities detained a number of suspects on Thursday.

Police Chief Leon Charles paraded 17 men before journalists at a news conference late on Thursday, showing a number of Colombian passports, plus assault rifles, machetes, walkie-talkies, and materials including bolt cutters and hammers.

“Foreigners came to our country to kill the president,” Charles said.

He revealed that 15 of the Colombians were captured, as were the Haitian Americans. Three of the assailants were killed and eight were still on the run, Charles said.

The foreign ministry in Taiwan, which maintains formal diplomatic ties with Haiti, said 11 of the suspects were captured at its embassy after they broke in.

“We offer all possible help to find the truth about the material and intellectual perpetrators of the assassination,” Colombian President Ivan Duque tweeted on Friday, adding that he had held a phone conversation with Haiti’s Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph.

At least 28 people participated in the murder of the Haitian President, including 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans.

A State Department spokesman could not confirm if any U.S. citizens were among those detained, but U.S. authorities were in contact with Haitian officials, including investigators. Officials in the mostly French- and Creole-speaking Caribbean nation said on Wednesday the assassins appeared to have spoken in English and Spanish.

(With inputs from IANS)

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