Gunmen assassinated the president of Haiti in an attack at his private residence early Wednesday, sparking new concerns about unrest in the Caribbean nation.
President Jovenel Moïse, 53, was killed and his wife, Martine, was injured and hospitalized, interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said in a brief statement.
Some of the gunmen spoke Spanish, he said.
Mr. Joseph condemned the attack as a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act” and said “all measures had been taken” to continue government operations.
U.S. President Biden said he was “shocked and saddened” by the attack.
“We condemn this heinous act, and I am sending my sincere wishes for first lady Moïse’s recovery. The United States offers condolences to the people of Haiti, and we stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti,” he said.
Departing the White House for Illinois, Mr. Biden called the attack “very worrisome.”
“We need a lot more information,” he told White House reporters.
The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince issued a security alert in the aftermath that said U.S. citizen staff should remain at the embassy in the Tabarre section until further notice. The embassy will be closed Wednesday.
“Avoid the area; avoid demonstrations and any large gatherings of people; do not attempt to drive through roadblocks; and if you encounter a roadblock, turn around and get to a safe area,” the alert says.
Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, condemned the attack.
“I urge President Biden to direct the Department of State to support the Haitian National police and help bring the murderers to justice,” he said. “We cannot allow this cowardly, evil attack to bring even more hardship to the people of Haiti and further destabilize their country.”
Mr. Moise had been in charge since February 2017.
The opposition has accused him of unlawfully extending his mandate and delaying elections. Mr. Moise countered that his five-year term lasts through February 2022, a position supported by the U.S.
The assassination comes at a tumultuous time for Haiti. The nation has been rocked by gang violence, political instability and food shortages.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas in May extended a deportation amnesty, or Temporary Protected Status (TPS), for about 100,000 Haitians in the U.S. for 18 months.
His department cited “serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources rendering the country unsafe for nationals to return.”
Tens of thousands of Haitians remain in the U.S. under protection from a TPS grant issued in 2010 after a major earthquake devastated the country.