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Two American Citizens Among Those Arrested In Haitian President's Assassination

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Haiti's police chief says foreigners came into the country and killed its president. President Jovenel Moise was assassinated earlier this week in his home. The police chief says they've identified 28 attackers, 26 of whom he says are Colombian. The AP also cites the elections minister as saying two U.S. nationals of Haitian descent are amongst those arrested in the killing.

For the latest, I'm joined by NPR's Jason Beaubien who reported extensively from Haiti in the past. Hey, Jason.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.

FADEL: Good morning. So 26 Colombians, two Americans - tell us what we know about the gunmen accused of carrying out this assassination.

BEAUBIEN: Yeah. We're still getting more details, you know, by the hour. But the head of Haiti's National Police, Leon Charles, says two of the suspects that are in custody are Haitian Americans from Florida. One is 35 years old; the other is 55. They both are naturalized U.S. citizens, he said. He did say that they are not the masterminds of the attack and that the masterminds are still on the loose.

The - Canada's foreign relations department says that the younger one worked briefly at the Canadian Embassy as a reserve bodyguard. The larger group, as you mentioned, are from Colombia. And Colombian military officials are saying that they are all former Colombian soldiers. Eleven of them were arrested on the grounds of the Taiwanese Embassy yesterday, adding...

FADEL: Wow.

BEAUBIEN: ...Even more international intrigue into this. The embassy was closed at the time. And so it's sort of unclear whether the commandos broke in or had some assistance to be there.

FADEL: So have officials revealed any more information about what happened at the president's residency during this attack?

BEAUBIEN: So investigations have started. A judge who is involved in that investigation says that there was spent ammunition cartridges and bullet holes all over the place at President Moise's private residence. He also says that President Moise was shot more than a dozen times.

FADEL: Wow.

BEAUBIEN: What's interesting here is that, you know - and what's causing a lot of speculation in Haiti is that there have been no reports of any of President Moise's bodyguards being injured or killed in this attack. His daughter hid in a bedroom. The first lady was actually shot. And a maid was found tied up by the attackers. But it doesn't...

FADEL: Wow.

BEAUBIEN: ...Appear that the president's security actually put up any significant resistance to these gunmen.

FADEL: So a lot of speculation - sounds very organized. Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph declared a two-week state of siege following the assassination. What's the current situation on the ground in Haiti?

BEAUBIEN: You know, from a political perspective, it's very unstable. Moise had been running the country by decree. He dissolved Parliament way back in January of 2020. You know, there had been protests in the streets, some of them violent. And opposition leaders were saying - over Moise's rule continuing. And there's some opposition leaders who were saying he wasn't the legitimate ruler.

Two days before his death, President Moise had appointed Ariel Henry as the prime minister to replace Claude Joseph. And Joseph is now saying that he's the leader of the country. But now Ariel Henry is disputing that. So as one U.S. State Department official said, it's a rapidly evolving situation.

FADEL: NPR's Jason Beaubien, thank you.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.