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From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By MICHAEL NORTON
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Nov 2 (AP) -- Armed attackers hurled firebombs and shot
at residents of a seaside shantytown in the Haitian capital Friday, setting
hundreds of homes ablaze and killing three people, residents and fire
The raid was an attempt to kill two brothers who allegedly control an
extortion racket in the open-air markets of the La Saline slum in the
capital, residents said.
The gunmen shot at police and firefighters, preventing them for bringing
the blaze under control for two hours, residents said.
Most people were able to flee, but between 1,200 and 1,500 homes, most
of them one-room shacks tightly packed together in a three-square-block
area, were destroyed, Fire Squad Chief Jean-Yzel Ladouceur said.
Residents said three people -- including a 2-month-old infant -- were
shot to death, and 17 others wounded by gunfire. Mercilia Timeus, 43, said
her 12-year-old son was wounded by a bullet to his waist.
Five people were seen being detained by officers but police could not
immediately be reached to confirm any arrests.
The attack began about 11 a.m., when the gunmen doused the shacks with
gasoline and then hurled firebombs, residents said. The neighborhood was
crowded with residents home from work for the All Saints' Day holiday.
Eril Espiritual, 27, held up a suit on a metal hanger. "This is all I
have now. This is all I could save from my home," he said.
After the fire, about 100 residents took to the streets to protest what
they said was the inability of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's
government to guarantee their security.
"Down with Aristide! You're not welcome here anymore!" the protesters
Pierre Charles, a 30-year-old resident who lost his home in the blaze,
said the governing Lavalas Family party has failed to address violence in
The attackers apparently were targeting Ronald and Franco Camille, who
have demanded protection money from local merchants for years. Residents
said rival gangs have recently been trying to muscle in on the business,
and the attack was part of that turf war.
"They came to kill me and the people are with me, so the assailants made
them pay," Franco Camille told The Associated Press.
Ronald Camille is wanted in connection with the Sept. 10 killing of a
pro-Aristide activist but has not been arrested.