PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Masked officers who said they belonged to a disgruntled sector of the Haitian police force known as Fantom 509 stormed several police stations in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday, freeing jailed comrades accused of participating in an alleged coup against embattled President Jovenel Moise last month.
The group of officers, along with some civilians, set a police station ablaze and then headed to a local Nissan auto dealership, which was looted and vandalized. Among the officers storming the station were police in uniform with their faces covered to avoid being recognized.
The day began with officers and police academy cadets marching toward police headquarters to demand that the bodies of five officers killed during a raid last week on the Village of God shantytown be recovered from the gang still holding them. The shantytown is run by the 5 Seconds gang.
The ill-fated raid, which took place five days ago, was aimed at arresting gang members but resulted in the death of the five officers and the wounding of several others.
Things heated up in Haiti’s capital Wednesday when disgruntled officers took to the streets demanding the release of their arrested colleagues. They told local media they belonged to Fantom 509.
Political strife in Haiti has deepened as opposition leaders claim Moïse’s five-year term has expired. They had demanded that he step down on Feb. 7. On that day, Moïse announced that authorities had arrested 23 people accused of plotting a coup to kill him and overthrow his government, including a high-ranking police official and a Supreme Court judge favored by the opposition.
Hours after the arrests, the opposition nominated a supposed transitional president that no one has recognized and have organized protests.