World

Police arrest Haitian they say aided foreign assassins behind president's killing

Haiti's police chief announced Sunday that officers have arrested a Haitian man accused of flying into the country on a private jet and working with the masterminds and alleged assassins behind the killing of President Jovenel Moïse.

Suspect flew in on private jet and worked with assassination masterminds, police say

Leon Charles, head of Haiti's National Police, speaks during a news conference in Port-au-Prince on Sunday. Charles announced Sunday that officers have arrested a Haitian man accused of flying into the country on a private jet and working with the masterminds and alleged assassins behind the killing of President Jovenel Moïse. (Ricardo Arduengo/Reuters)

Haiti's police chief announced Sunday that officers have arrested a Haitian man accused of flying into the country on a private jet and working with the masterminds and alleged assassins behind the killing of President Jovenel Moïse.

Police Chief Leon Charles identified the suspect as Christian Emmanuel Sanon, without giving any personal information about him.

Charles said officers found several items at the man's house, including a hat emblazoned with the logo of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 20 boxes of bullets, gun parts, four automobile licence plates from the Dominican Republic, two cars and correspondence with unidentified people.

"We continue to make strides," Charles said of police efforts to solve the brazen killing that occurred early Wednesday at Moïse's private home in an attack that seriously injured his wife, Martine Moïse, who was airlifted to Miami and remains hospitalized.

It was not immediately clear if Sanon had an attorney.

Charles said a total of 26 Colombians are suspected in the killing. Eighteen of them have been arrested, along with three Haitians. He said five of the suspects are still at large and at least three have been killed.

"They are dangerous individuals," he said. "I'm talking commando, specialized commando."

The chief said police are working with high-ranking Colombian officials to identify details of the alleged plot, including when the suspects left Colombia and who paid for their tickets.

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Charles said Sanon was in contact with a firm that provides security for politicians and recruited the suspects, adding that the suspect flew into Haiti with them in early June. The men's initial mission was to protect Sanon, but they later received a new one: arrest the president, the chief said.

"The operation started from there," he said, noting that an additional 22 suspects joined the group and that contact was made with Haitian citizens.

Suspect identifies himself as doctor

Charles said that after Moïse was killed, one of the suspects phoned Sanon, who then got in touch with two people believed to be the intellectual authors of the plot. He did not identify the masterminds or say if police knew who they are.

The chief said Haitian authorities obtained the information from interrogations and other parts of the investigation.

Sanon has lived in Florida, in Broward County and in Hillsborough County on the Gulf Coast. Records show he has also lived in Kansas City, Missouri. He filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and identifies himself as a doctor in a video on YouTube titled "Leadership for Haiti."

In the video, he denounces the leaders of Haiti as corrupt, accusing them of stripping the country of its resources, saying that "they don't care about the country, they don't care about the people."

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He claims Haiti has uranium, oil and other resources that have been taken by government officials. "With me in power, you are going to have to tell me: 'What are you doing with my uranium? What are you doing with the oil that we have in the country? What are you going to do with the gold?"'

He also added: "This is a country with resources. Nine million people can't be in poverty when we have so much resources in the country. It's impossible. ... The world has to stop doing what they are doing right now. We can't take it anymore. We need new leadership that will change the way of life."

Political power struggle

The announcement was made hours after hundreds of Haitians sought solace in prayer at early Sunday church services as a political power struggle threatened to further destabilize their fragile country.

Roman Catholic and Protestant church leaders asked for calm and told people to remain strong as anxiety about the future grew, with authorities providing no answers or theories about who masterminded the killing of Moïse.

"Facing this situation, we will not be discouraged.... You must stay and fight for peace," Father Edwine Sainte-Louis said during a sermon broadcast on TV that included a small picture of Moïse with a banner that read: "Haiti will remember you."

Prosecutors have requested that high-profile politicians including presidential candidate Reginald Boulos and former Haitian Senate President Youri Latortue meet officials for questioning as the investigation continues. Authorities also said they plan to interview at least two members of Moïse's security detail.

Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph is currently leading Haiti with the help of the police and military, but he faces mounting challenges to his power.

Ariel Henry, whom Moise designated as prime minister a day before he was killed, has said he believes he is the rightful prime minister, a claim also backed by a group of legislators who are members of Moïse's Tet Kale party. That group also supports Joseph Lambert, head of Haiti's dismantled Senate, as the country's provisional president.

U.S. sends team to assist investigation

Haiti, a country of more than 11 million people, currently has only 10 elected officials after it failed to hold parliamentary elections, leading Moise to rule by decree for more than a year until his death.

Haiti's interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph speaks to media in Port-au-Prince on Thursday. Joseph is currently leading Haiti with the help of the police and military, but he faces mounting challenges to his power. (Estailove St-Val/Reuters)

While the streets were calm on Sunday, government officials worry about what lies ahead and have requested U.S. and UN military assistance.

"We still believe there is a path for chaos to happen," Haiti Elections Minister Mathias Pierre told The Associated Press.

Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby said on Fox News Sunday that the Pentagon is analyzing the request to send troops to Haiti and that no decisions have been made. He said a team, largely comprising agents from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, were heading down to Haiti "right now" to help with the investigation of the assassination.

`'I think that's really where are our energies are best applied right now, in helping them get their arms around investigating this incident and figuring out who's culpable, who's responsible and how best to hold them accountable going forward," Kirby said.

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