By John Ikani
Gunmen unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry during an event on Saturday commemorating the Caribbean country’s independence, his office said in a statement.
Henry’s office said on Monday that “bandits and terrorists” had tried to shoot the Prime Minister at a Church in the northern city of Gonaives where the ceremony marking the 218th anniversary of independence was taking place
“An attempt has been made against me personally. My life has been put in the crosshairs,” said Henry, who has been de-facto running the country since the July assassination of president Jovenel Moise.
Video footage broadcast on social media showed Mr. Henry and his entourage scrambling toward their vehicles as an armed group began shooting outside the cathedral in Gonaïves.
The police, who called Saturday’s attack the work of “armed groups,” were unable to immediately confirm casualties. Haitian media said the shooting killed one person and injured two more.
Photos provided to AFP by Henry’s office show a bullet impact mark on the windshield of his armored vehicle.
The events come weeks after groups of citizens and members of armed gangs in Gonaives had violently expressed their opposition to Henry’s visiting their city.
“I knew I was taking a risk,” Henry told AFP in a telephone interview.
“We cannot let bandits from any background, driven by the lowest financial interests, blackmail the state,” he said.
The reported assassination attempt over the weekend has renewed concerns about the safety of officials in Haiti since Mr. Moïse’s assassination.
Long plagued by poverty, natural disasters and gang violence, the Caribbean nation has been without a functioning parliament and with a paralysed judiciary for two years, and Moise’s assassination has only exacerbated the crisis.
His murder six months ago in the private presidential residence only underscored the deep political, social and economic crisis the Caribbean country has been stuck in for years.
While several Haitians, two US citizens of Haitian origin and about 15 Colombian nationals have been accused of taking part in the assassination and been imprisoned in Port-au-Prince since the summer, the investigation itself has shown few further signs of progress.