An attempted coup in Haiti has left five people dead but President Jean Bertrand Aristide and his family are safe, according to national radio reports.

The gunmen tried to storm the National Palace at around 2 a.m. local time but were forced back by gunfire from palace security. Aristide and his wife were asleep at their suburban home, five kilometres away.

Two police officers guarding the palace were killed as well as two bystanders and one of the attackers. Six other police officers were wounded.

Reports said the gunmen were former members of the Haitian military and may have been helped by Dominican army soldiers.

Several of the attackers escaped in a pickup truck in spite of barricades and road blocks set up around the palace.

Supporters of Aristide set fire to two buildings where opposition parties have their offices.

Aristide and the opposition have been at odds since elections in May, 2000, which critics say the government rigged.