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Pentagon confirms training assassins; French held for Madagascar plot

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby (Photo by AP)

The Pentagon has confirmed that at least seven of the former Colombian army officers detained for their role in the July 7 assassination of the Haitian president had received US-funded military training.

“Thus far, we’ve identified seven individuals who were former members of the Colombian military that had received some sort of ... US- funded and provided education and training,” Pentagon’s Press Secretary John Kirby Thursday. 

He said he knows of no current plans “for us to reconsider or to change this very valuable, ethical leadership training” after the brutal assassination operation in Haiti, which also exposed the involvement of a number of American citizens.

The Pentagon had admitted last week that a "small number" of the now 26 people arrested following the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse had received previous US military training, but declined to provide further details.

Those arrested so far in the case include 18 Colombians — at least 13 of whom are former Colombian military officers — five Haitians and three American citizens, according US press reports.

Moïse was shot and killed early on July 7 at his private residence in a wealthy suburb outside of Port-au-Prince. His wife was injured in the attack. 

US military training of South American forces over numerous decades have long been controversial and widely criticized, with Colombia being among the closest partners of the American military. The country receives US funding and other assistance under the pretext of combating drug trafficking and guerrilla movements.

French citizen held in plot to kill Madagascar president 

A French citizen is among six suspects nabbed for their involvement in a plot to kill Madagascar's president, the Indian Ocean island's minister of public security declared, with a second official saying the president's security had been tightened.

"One of the arrested people is French, two of them are bi-national - Malagasy and French. The three others are Malagasy," said Rodellys Fanomezantsoa Randrianarison at a news conference late Thursday.

Madagascar's attorney general said on Thursday that police had detained the six following what officials described as a months-long investigation. 

Patrick Rajoelina, an adviser to President Andry Rajoelina, also stated on Friday that two of those arrested had previously worked in the French military.

He said unspecified measures had been adopted to tighten the president's security, noting, "The evidence is tangible and we certainly do not take this lightly."

A spokesperson for the French military did not immediately respond to inquiries about the development.

Madagascar has a history of political violence and instability. Rajoelina, 44, was sworn in as president in 2019 after a hard-fought election and a constitutional court challenge from his rival.

Rajoelina first took power in the deeply impoverished former French colony of 26 million people in a March 2009 coup, removing Marc Ravalomanana. He remained in control at the head of a transitional government until 2014.

In the 2019 elections, Ravalomanana challenged Rajoelina, lost, and said the vote was fraudulent.

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