UN: Fresh gang violence in Haiti leaves 187 dead in 11 days

FILE - A parent, carrying his child after picking him up from school, runs past police carrying out an operation against gangs in the Bel-Air area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 3, 2023. Prime Minister Ariel Henry signaled Friday, March 17, 2023 that he wants to mobilize Haiti’s military to help the National Police fight the country’s increasingly powerful criminal gangs. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — New clashes between gangs in Haiti’s capital and beyond have killed at least 187 people in less than two weeks and injured more than 150 others, the U.N. said Tuesday.

The fresh wave of violence recorded from Feb. 27 to March 9 in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and in the central region of Artibonite also has displaced hundreds of people and forced farmers to abandon fields as starvation worsens, officials said.

“The situation is all the more alarming for children, who are often subjected to all forms of armed violence, including forced recruitment and sexual violence,” the U.N. in Haiti said.

The surge of violence in central Haiti has been largely blamed on a gang called “Baz Gran Grif,” which roughly translates to “Big Claw Crew.”

In addition, nearly 260 kidnappings have been reported since the start of the year, with people abducted from their homes or public places, officials said.

Gangs have grown more powerful since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, and already control an estimated 60% of Port-au-Prince. They also have been clashing in the central towns of Petite Riviere de l’Artibonite, Verrettes, Estere and Liancourt.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry signaled last week that he is seeking to mobilize Haiti’s military to help an under-resourced and understaffed police department fight the unrelenting gang violence, which has forced an increasing number of schools and businesses to shutter.