Haiti UN peacekeepers extend crackdown on criminal gangs

“The UN peacekeepers are going to continue to pursue the criminals who threaten Haiti’s security,” UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) military spokesperson Laurie Arellano said in her latest update.This week, 235 UN peacekeepers and police joined their Haitian colleagues and carried out two operations in one of the violence-ridden country’s most dangerous areas, the Cité Soleil neighbourhood, where they have already arrested dozens of suspects, capturing 15 more suspected members, including key leaders, of the Evans gang. Evans himself has so far evaded capture. Those captured included the alleged head of the Evans gang’s kidnapping network, named Johnny François, and Evans’ bodyguard, known as Junior Claudio Pouchon. “The Evans gang has thus been seriously dismantled this week,” Ms. Arellano told a news briefing in Port-au-Prince yesterday. “It is now practically non-existent and we are very close to arresting Evans and the other gang leaders.” Thanks to the improved security in Cité Soleil, the Saint Thomas de Boston school reopened its doors this week after being restored by MINUSTAH soldiers following its use as a gang headquarters. Returning the school to the community, the UN distributed 150 school kits, 80 sports uniforms and other sports equipment. The mission has already transformed other gang lairs into medical centres and water distribution points. UN forces also extended their operations beyond Cité Soleil to the Martissant neighbourhood, where they joined Haitian colleagues in arresting six suspects, three of whom were identified as possible members of the Soray and Lame Ti- Machete gangs. The other three were suspected of involvement in illegal narcotics.Thanks to improved security in Martissant, UN peacekeepers from Sri Lanka are helping residents to build a football field.MINUSTAH, set up in 2004 to help re-establish peace in the impoverished Caribbean country after an insurgency forced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to go into exile, last month arrested dozens of suspects in the Bélékou, Key Boyle and Boston quarters of Cité Soleil. 9 March 2007United Nations peacekeepers and Haitian police are extending their crackdown on armed gangs in Port-au-Prince, the capital, arresting criminals, seizing weapons and restoring services in cleared areas – from rehabilitating a school used by the gangs as a refuge to building a football field.