*(Via Global News) – When a police truck carrying men in uniform pulled into an impoverished neighbourhood in the Haitian capital, residents thought it was an official operation.
Maybe police were finally trying to head off a war between the gangs that run protection rackets in the market next to the sprawling collection of cinderblock shacks and low-rise public housing.
Then the men opened fire. Joined by local gang members clad in black, they went house to house with long guns and machetes, pulling unarmed people into the narrow alleys and killing them with single shots or machete blows, witnesses told The Associated Press.
“When I saw them, I thought they were providing security but then I realized they were shooting at the population,” said 55-year-old resident Marie-Lourdes Corestan. “They were shooting, and I was running to save my life.”
Some residents and local rights groups say the killers were gang members working with corrupt police to seize territory in the La Saline gang war. But others accuse Haitian government officials of orchestrating the massacre to head off anti-corruption protests that often start in the neighbourhood, an opposition stronghold.
What’s certain is that the killings reveal a startling erosion of security in Haiti since U.N. peacekeepers ended their 13-year mandate in October 2017 because conditions on the island had supposedly improved.
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