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Friday, January 26, 2007

Clashes in Haiti leave at least five dead, 12 wounded

PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) - Twenty-four hours of clashes between UN forces and armed gangs in the Haitian capital's sprawling slum of Cite Soleil have left at least five people dead and 12 wounded by gunfire, the UN mission in Haiti said.

"Four people, all likely gang members, were killed in clashes Wednesday at dawn between the blue helmets and gunmen," said a spokesman for the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

Six people were wounded during a MINUSTAH operation "to take over a house near an important road controlled by the gangs that also served as a base for attacks against UN forces," the spokesman said.

The gangs were extorting money from truck drivers and motorists on the busy road, he added.

A woman wounded at Cite Soleil died a few hours later, late Wednesday, at Saint Catherine Hospital, run by the humanitarian group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) inside the shantytown.

"We received seven wounded on Wednesday evening. Among them were three women, one of whom died several hours after having been admitted to hospital," Fabio Pompetti of the MSF team working at the local hospital told AFP.

"We're preparing more interventions in high-risk areas of Port-au-Prince," the MINUSTAH spokesman said.

Over two decades, Haiti has suffered from political violence and instability, notably since the departure of then-president Jean Bertrand Aristide in February 2004 amid a popular uprising.

After Aristide's exit into exile, a force of over 7,200 UN soldiers and 2,000 police went to the impoverished Caribbean country to maintain order while an interim regime sought to restore stability.

More than half of the Caribbean island's 8.4 million people live below the extreme poverty line of one dollar a day, according to UN officials.
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