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a86: Haiti says coup plotters were former soldiers (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By Michael Deibert
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Former members of Haiti's disbanded
army carried out this week's apparent coup attempt against President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the national police said on Thursday as hundreds of
Aristide supporters marched in the capital denouncing the political
Haitian National Police spokesman Jean-Dady Simeon told a news
conference that Guy Philippe, a former police chief from the northern town
of Cap Haitien, led the plot. Simeon also said Guy Francois, a former army
colonel who served as interior secretary during a 1991-94 military
government installed after Aristide was toppled in an earlier coup, also
Authorities said that at least 13 people were killed on Monday in an
assault by gunmen on the National Palace and the nearby National
Penitentiary in downtown Port-au-Prince and subsequent mob violence that
swept the capital and other cities in which "suspected collaborators" were
burned to death.
The attack, the worst violence since former Roman Catholic priest
Aristide reclaimed the presidency last February, ignited fears that the
impoverished Caribbean nation of 8 million people was returning to its
brutal past, rife with dictatorship and military takeovers.
Haiti's army was disbanded and a new police force set up after the
1994 U.S. military invasion that restored Aristide to power after his
ouster in the 1991 military coup.
Opposition politicians have called Monday's assault an act of
"theater" staged as a pretext for the repression of opposition parties,
media and civil rights groups, but stopped short of directly accusing the
Simeon said the 30 gunmen who carried out the attack were former
soldiers led by Philippe, who was detained on Wednesday by authorities in
Quito, Ecuador. In a radio interview earlier this week, Philippe denied
involvement in the attack.
Ecuador's Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Jaime Marchan said his
country would deport Philippe to Panama, the last country he entered before
arriving in Ecuador.
Philippe had fled Haiti to the Dominican Republic during the summer
after assaults on police stations. The Dominican Republic shares the island
of Hispaniola with Haiti.
Simeon said Francois was arrested at Port-au-Prince International
Airport late on Wednesday for alleged involvement in the coup attempt. He
was trying to board a flight bound for Venezuela, Simeon said.
Francois' daughter, speaking to reporters, denied that Francois had
any involvement in the attacks.
Simeon said one of the alleged gunmen captured after the assault,
Pierre Richardson, revealed the role played by Philippe and Francois.
"According to testimony obtained from Pierre Richardson, we have
confirmed the involvement of both Guy Philippe and Guy Francois in the
attempted coup d'etat on December 17," Simeon said. Police said Richardson
was arrested at the Dominican border on Monday carrying a wad of cash and
an M16 rifle.
Initial reports had indicated that nine people died in the palace
attack and the aftermath, including a gunman and two police officers shot
to death at the scene.
But Simeon said on Thursday that four other gunmen had been killed by
civilian mobs on Monday when they were forced to abandon their vehicle
after it was damaged by heavy police fire in the Thomazeau neighborhood in
western Port-au-Prince, taking the death toll to 13.
Government sources said the car they were driving had Dominican
plates, and speculated that the men were trying to reach Haiti's border
with the Dominican Republic.
About 200 supporters of Aristide's ruling Lavalas Family party marched
in the streets of suburban Petionville on Thursday, carrying pictures of
the president and escorted by a police cruiser with sirens blaring.
"Down with the Convergence," the Aristide supporters chanted. Offices
of the opposition alliance Democratic Convergence and homes of opposition
politicians were torched by mobs in the hours after the palace assault.
Local media reported that a contingent of riot police had been sent to
the coastal city of Petit Goave, 56 miles (90 km) west of the capital, to
help quell disturbances that have raged there since the murder of a
journalist affiliated with Convergence coalition two weeks ago.
The house of a prominent Convergence supporter in Cap Haitien was
attacked on Thursday, the reports said.