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a87: Haiti-Attempted Coup (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>


   PORT-AU-PRINCE, Dec 20 (AP) -- A former colonel in Haiti's disbanded
army was arrested in the alleged plot to topple the Aristide government
earlier this week, police said Thursday.
   Former Col. Guy Francois was arrested Wednesday and police said they
were still looking for more than two dozen others, many of them also former
soldiers, involved in the attack on the National Palace in the attempt to
oust President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was unharmed.
   Police retook the palace seven hours after the gunmen stormed the
building. One of the 33 attackers was killed and one was captured with a
bullet wound in his leg on the highway to neighboring Dominican Republic,
police said.
   Four others, wounded in a shootout with police, were killed by civilians
wielding machetes near the Dominican border, police said.
   Haiti's national police force was formed in 1995 after Aristide
disbanded the army that ousted him in a 1991 coup.
   Restored to power in 1994 by U.S. troops, Aristide was forced by term-
limit legislation to step down in 1996. He began a second term in February.
   Some ex-soldiers have joined demonstrations against Aristide, calling
for the reestablishment of the 7,500-member army. Others have taken to the
streets to demand payment of back wages and benefits.
   Officials said the palace attackers wore the khaki and camouflage
fatigues once used in the army.
   Francois conspired with other officers in 1989 to overthrow dictator Lt.
Gen. Prosper Avril. When the attempt was foiled, Francois fled to
   It was unclear when he returned to Haiti, and police did not say what
charges he faced.
   Police have identified two other alleged coup plotters as ex-soldiers --
former Sgt. Pierre Richardson, the wounded captive, and Chavret Milot, the
only attacker killed at the palace. Police did not give Milot's former
   Officials say radio transmissions from the attackers identified their
leader as former police chief Guy Philippe of northern Cap-Haitien city,
also an ex-soldier assigned to the police force that replaced the army.
Philippe has denied involvement.
   Police say the palace assault appeared linked to attacks on the national
Police Academy and three police stations on July 28, which left five dead
and 14 wounded.
   Richardson, the wounded captive, was involved in the July attacks and
later fled to Dominican Republic, where he was granted temporary residence
this month, police said.
   Opposition politicians and Haitians interviewed on the street have
questioned whether Monday's attack was really a coup attempt. Some accused
the government of staging the attack as a pretext to crack down on dissent.
   The assault came after Aristide's government mounted a campaign for
international donors to release millions of dollars in aid frozen after
disputed legislative elections won by his Lavalas Family party last year.
The opposition, protesting alleged vote rigging, boycotted November's
presidential vote won by Aristide.
   After police retook the palace from gunmen on Monday, Aristide
supporters sought vengeance, burning offices and homes of opposition
   At least two opposition supporters were killed Monday, and police
reported eight others killed in the palace attack and subsequent violence.
Earlier, authorities had said 11 were killed, but police revised the death
toll. At least nine others were wounded.