UN: 53 pct rise in Haiti gang violence

More than 2,500 people were killed or injured in gang violence in Haiti from January through March, up 53% from the last three months of 2023, the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) said on Friday.

At least 590 were killed during police operations, BINUH said in a report. Several were apparently not involved in gang violence, some had impaired mobility, and at least 141 were killed by vigilante justice groups.

Most of the violence took place in the capital of Port-au-Prince, while at lea st 438 people were kidnapped across the wider West Department and agricultural Artibonite region. The capital’s port-side La Saline and Cite Soleil areas had the longest large-scale attacks.

Gang members continued to perpetrate rapes against women and girls in rival neighborhoods, as well as in prisons and displacement camps, the report found.

Hundreds of thousands have been internally displaced by gangs, the U.N. estimates. Despite criticism by the world body, countries such as the United States and neighboring Dominican Republic are still deporting migrants back into Ha iti.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security told Reuters on Thursday that irregular migration of Haitians through the Caribbean “remains low,” though many neighbors have evacuated citizens and bolstered their borders.

Gang violence, which has worsened for years, escalated on Feb. 29 when unelected Prime Minister Ariel Henry traveled to Kenya to fast-track a planned international security support mission, but days later he resigned under U.S. pressure.

With a new government yet to be installed, BINUH said, gangs have “changed their tactics” targeting attacks agains t public institutions and strategic infrastructure, such as the main port and largest airport.

At least 22 police buildings have been looted or set on fire and 19 police officers killed or injured, it said, while blocked supply routes are exacerbating a healthcare and hunger crisis.

The report repeated calls for faster deployment of the planned security mission, which Henry requested in 2022 and was approved over six months ago, but which has received limited pledges for both troops and funds and been put on hold pending a new government.

It also called for updated sanctions, stronger efforts to block arms trafficking, secure routes to deliver key goods and rehabilitation programs for children recruited into gangs.

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