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US delegation flees Haiti after gunshots fired at Moise’s funeral

Pallbearers in military attire carry the coffin holding the body of late Haitian President Jovenel Moise after he was shot dead at his home in Port-au-Prince earlier this month, in Cap-Haitien, July 23, 2021. (Reuters photo)

The delegation US President Joe Biden sent to Haiti to attend the funeral of assassinated President Jovenel Moïse has fled the country after gunshots were fired outside the ceremony location.

The delegation is “safe”, the White House said on Friday.

“The presidential delegation is safe and accounted for in light of the reported shootings outside of the funeral,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. “They are on their way back to the United States.”

“We are deeply concerned about unrest in Haiti. In this critical moment, Haiti’s leaders must come together to chart a united path that reflects the will of the Haitian people,” Psaki continued. “We remain committed to supporting the people of Haiti in this challenging time.”

The delegation to the funeral was led by American Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield. The delegation also included US Ambassador to Haiti Michele Sison, newly announced special envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote, the National Security Council’s senior director for the Western Hemisphere Juan Gonzalez, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.).

Officials were scheduled to attend the state funeral for Moïse, who was assassinated earlier this month at his residence. However, they returned home earlier than originally expected due to the security concern, according to a source familiar with the situation.

“The Haitian people deserve democracy, stability, security, and prosperity, and we stand with them in this time of crisis,” Thomas-Greenfield said on Twitter. “We urge everyone to express themselves peacefully and refrain from violence.”

Reuters reported that gunshots were fired near the funeral and riot gas was used on protesters, which caused the US delegation to abruptly leave the funeral.

The Pentagon has confirmed that at least seven of the former Colombian army officers detained for their role in the July 7 assassination 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 said on Thursday. 

The spokesman 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 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 reports.

According to another recent report, several of the people suspected of involvement in the assassination worked as US government informants.

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