Haitian government denies recruiting mercenaries

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AFP) — Haiti's embattled government denied Monday that it has hired foreign mercenaries, after the arrest of Americans and other armed foreign nationals.

The group was detained in Port-au-Prince Sunday and includes five Americans, a Serb, a Russian and a Haitian, police said, adding that they had military grade weapons.

They gave no indication about the motives of the group and said interrogations will continue.

The arrests came 10 days after protests began against corruption and poverty in the Caribbean nation. At least seven people have died during demonstrations demanding the ouster of President Jovenel Moise.

Secretary of State for Communication Eddy Jackson Alexis denied reports that the detainees are mercenaries.

"The executive branch would not know how to hire mercenaries to come and terrorize a population that gave us a mandate to rule and which we have the responsibility to serve," he told AFP.

The arrests raised suspicions as Haiti endures a period of political instability.

"Seeing such an arsenal in the hands of foreigners, men who do not have authorization to go around with such powerful weapons, surely raises concerns, the minister said.

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