- The Washington Times - Monday, October 25, 2004

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haitian police and U.N. troops moved into a slum that has become a flash point for unrest, using bulldozers to remove a barricade of torched cars that had blocked traffic in the capital.

One Haitian policeman was fatally shot Sunday, apparently in early resistance that ended when scores of Brazilian troops moved in behind 10 armored cars with mounted submachine guns.

A police officer at the scene said at least two “bandits” also were killed and several civilians were wounded. That information could not be confirmed by early yesterday.

The chant of hymns wafted from church services and a U.N. helicopter roared overhead as the operation got under way in Bel Air, a poor neighborhood full of supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The crackdown came after the government said Friday that it would root out gangs that have blockaded areas of certain neighborhoods. Bel Air residents accuse police of attacking them without cause and making illegal arrests.

Port-au-Prince, the capital, has been convulsed by violence since police fatally shot two protesters at a Sept. 30 march to demand the return of Mr. Aristide, who went into exile amid an armed revolt in February. At least 56 persons have been killed, including the officer shot Sunday.

The operation began at 5 a.m. and continued into the afternoon, the first to last several hours. Previous incursions into the neighborhood had been brief because police had encountered gunfire.

A bulldozer pushed burned-out cars down Rue Macajoux to the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, where front loaders lifted them into garbage trucks. Graffiti scrawled across a church wall called for the return of Mr. Aristide, a populist former Catholic priest twice elected the country’s president.

Peacekeepers used a sledgehammer to knock down the second-story wall of a corner building used by snipers, said Gen. Americo Salvador, commander of the Brazilian brigade that is leading the U.N. mission to stabilize Haiti.

Police Commissioner Jean-Brice Ralph said his men detained two unarmed men “because they are known bandits.”

At the top of Rue Macajoux, a group of young men jeered at police officers.

“All we want is to have President Aristide returned,” said Aristide Carlo, 20, a student. “The police accuse us of terrorism, but it is they who are the bandits.”

Human-rights lawyer Renan Hedouville said Sunday that his organization has received reports of women and girls being raped in many of the troubled areas in Port-au-Prince, especially Bel Air. Many of the reports involve former Haitian soldiers who helped oust Mr. Aristide, Mr. Hedouville said.

In addition to the Brazilian troops, about 100 police officers from Benin, Canada, France and Spain took part in the operation.

Daniel Moskaluk, a spokesman for an international police force training Haitian officers, said Jordanian and Haitian riot police would remain in the neighborhood. He said his group would help set up a permanent Haitian police station.

On Friday, President Boniface Alexandre called the gangs “terrorists” and urged people in several troubled neighborhoods to cooperate with authorities to “expel these bandits.”

Mr. Aristide fled Feb. 29, accused of corruption and using police to suppress opponents. He left Haiti on a U.S.-chartered plane as former soldiers leading a bloody rebellion neared Port-au-Prince.

Now in South Africa, Mr. Aristide has accused the United States of orchestrating his ouster and insists he remains Haiti’s democratically elected leader. The United States denies the accusations.

Prime Minister Gerard Latortue castigated the United Nations on Saturday, saying it had not sent enough troops to prevent the violence. There are 3,200 peacekeepers in Haiti, instead of the promised 8,700 to police this country of 8 million.

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