More than a dozen people were lynched by a crowd in Haitian capital Port-au-Prince on Monday, on suspicion of being gang members, according to authorities.
Video from Reuters and AFP showed burning and charred bodies with tires around them, and crowds forming near the area. Residents who spoke to Reuters and AFP on camera said they believed the victims were gang members.
“It was 3 am. The gangs invaded us. There was shooting, shooting. This neighborhood is a peaceful area, all the people in the surrounding area are peaceful citizens,” a local resident told AFP.
Before the killing, Haitian National Police had stopped and searched the victims in a minibus in the neighborhood of Canape-Vert, seizing weapons and other equipment, according to a statement from the Haitian National Police.
“More than a dozen individuals riding on board this vehicle were unfortunately lynched by members of the population,” the statement said.
“If the gangs come to invade us, we will defend ourselves, we have our own weapons, we have our machetes, we will take their weapons, we will not run away,” a 15-year-old Haitian resident told AFP.
“We don’t ask for a lot. The gang members have invaded the area. We want the police to go ahead and confront them. We’re on our own. We have nothing,” said another. The resident added that suspected gangmembers had “invaded” the neighborhood early Monday morning around 2am.
In a tweet, Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry applauded the Haitian police on Monday for recent operations toward restoring “order and peace in our cities and neighborhoods.”
“Together, we will solve the problems related to security to move forward,” Henry wrote
Gangs control wide swathes of Port-Au-Prince, plaguing residents with extreme violence as Haitians also grapple with extreme poverty and a humanitarian crisis.