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Friday April 19, 2024

Haiti telecoms disrupted amid violence, inmates escape from main prison

Armed groups on Saturday night attacked the country’s largest prison

By REUTERS
March 04, 2024
A prisoner looks out from his cell at Haitis National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on August 30, 2019. — AFP
A prisoner looks out from his cell at Haiti's National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on August 30, 2019. — AFP

PORT-AU-PRINCE: International connectivity to Haiti was disrupted on Sunday following violent clashes in the capital that have damaged communications and led to a prison break at the main penitentiary as a major gang leader seeks to oust Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

The chairman of Digicel, one of two major telecoms providers to the Caribbean country, said that lines had been affected following days of street violence in parts of the capital.

Field teams on Sunday were “working on gaining safe passage to allow repairs,” Digicel Chairman Maarten Boute said in a post on X, adding that local telephone calls were still possible.

Heavy gunfire has caused panic in recent days after calls by gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, a former police officer, for criminal groups to unite and overthrow Henry. Cherizier heads an alliance of gangs and faces sanctions from the UN and the United States.

Armed groups on Saturday night attacked the country’s largest prison, defying Haitian police forces who had called for help. Reuters visited the National Penitentiary on Sunday where there were no signs of police officers and the main prison doors remained open.

“I’m the only one left in my cell,” one unidentified inmate told Reuters. “We were asleep when we heard the sound of bullets. The cell barriers are broken,” he said.

It was unclear how many inmates were on the run. Sources close to the institution said it was likely an “overwhelming” majority.