Haitian President Jovenel Moïsewas assassinated in an attack at his residence, the country’s interim prime minister said, plunging the unstable Caribbean nation into fresh political turmoil and posing a challenge to U.S. policy makers.
A group of assailants carrying high-caliber weapons stormed the house in an upscale residential neighborhood about 1 a.m. local time on Wednesday, fatally shooting the president and wounding the first lady, Martine Moïse, said interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph. She was in a critical condition and taken to Miami for medical treatment, the Haitian government said.
“This was a highly coordinated attack by a highly trained and heavily armed group,” Mr. Joseph said, adding that the attackers spoke Spanish and English. Haiti is a French- and Creole-speaking country. The attackers fled and remained unidentified late Wednesday. Senior government officials suggested in interviews that the assailants may have been foreign mercenaries, without elaborating.
Jean Mary Exil, Haiti’s ambassador to Colombia, said he was awakened by frantic messages from relatives who live in the vicinity of Mr. Moïse’s residence. They heard volleys of heavy gunfire that lasted more than 15 minutes, he said.
Following a cabinet meeting, Mr. Joseph assumed control of the government and declared a state of siege, which restricts freedom of movement, puts the military in charge of security, replaces civilian courts with military tribunals, and restricts media information, Mr. Joseph said in a televised address to the nation.