PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Seventeen suspects have been detained so far in the stunning assassination of Haiti’s president, and Haitian authorities say two are believed to hold dual U.S.-Haitian citizenship and Colombia’s government says at least six are former members of its army.
Léon Charles, chief of Haiti’s National Police, said Thursday night that 15 of the detainees were from Colombia.
The police chief said eight more suspects were being sought and three others had been killed by police. Charles had earlier said seven were killed.
After the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, fears are growing that Haiti a power struggle, gang violence and the pandemic could conspire to create the worst crisis in the Caribbean nation in years.
“We are going to bring them to justice,” the police chief said, the 17 handcuffed suspects sitting on the floor during a news conference on developments following the brazen killing of President Jovenel Moïse at his home before dawn Wednesday.
Colombia’s government said it had been asked about six of the suspects in Haiti, including two of those killed, and had determined they were retired members of its army. It didn’t release their identities.
The head of the Colombian national police, Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas Valencia, said President Iván Duque had ordered the high command of Colombia’s army and police to cooperate in the investigation.
“A team was formed with the best investigators ... they are going to send dates, flight times, financial information that is already being collected to be sent to Port-au-Prince,” Vargas said.
The U.S. State Department said it was aware of reports that Haitian Americans were in custody but could not confirm or comment.
#HAITI: Haitian police say two US citizens are among 17 alleged foreign mercenaries who have been arrested in connection with the assassination of Pres. Jovenel Moïse. Haitian police say the two US citizens of Haitian descent were arrested along with 15 Colombian nationals. pic.twitter.com/LvuqRZrekT
The Haitian Americans were identified by Haitian officials as James Solages and Joseph Vincent. Solages, at age 35, is the youngest of the suspects and the oldest is 55, according to a document shared by Haiti’s minister of elections, Mathias Pierre. He would not provide further information on those in custody.
Solages described himself as a “certified diplomatic agent,” an advocate for children and budding politician on a website for a charity he started in 2019 in south Florida to assist people in the Haitian coastal town of Jacmel. On his bio page for the charity, Solages said he previously worked as a bodyguard at the Canadian Embassy in Haiti.
Canada’s foreign relation department released a statement that did not refer to Solages by name but said one of the men detained for his alleged role in the killing had been “briefly employed as a reserve bodyguard” at its embassy by a private contractor. He gave no other details.
Calls to the charity and Solages’ associates at the charity either did not go through or weren’t answered.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said Haitian police had arrested 11 armed suspects who tried to break into the Taiwanese embassy early Thursday. It gave no details of the suspects’ identities or a reason for the break-in.