U.S. military flies Marines into Haiti embassy, evacuating some staff in overnight airlift

The U.S. military flew in U.S. Marines to reinforce its embassy in Haiti and evacuate non-essential personnel as heavily armed gangs continue to challenge the country’s tenuous government and turn the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, into a battlefield.

The middle-of-the-night operation was conducted via helicopter by the U.S. military at the request of the State Department, the U.S. Southern Command said in a statement.

“This airlift of personnel into and out of the embassy is consistent with our standard practice for embassy security augmentation worldwide, and no Haitians were on board the military aircraft,” the statement said.

The airlift comes amid ongoing gang attacks in multiple locations around metropolitan Port-au-Prince, including Tabarre, where the U.S. embassy is located. Several nearby businesses have been looted and overtaken by armed gangs that today control more than 80% of the capital.

Since last Thursday, armed groups have led a coordinated attack, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry and targeting key Haitian government institutions. After taking control of several police stations, they targeted the main seaport before orchestrating a mass prison break at the two largest prisons. Thousands of inmates were freed by the gangs, including several notorious gang leaders.

The gangs have also launched attacks against the international and domestic airports. Heavy gunfire around the airports has led to the suspension of international flights into the country. Henry, who is under pressure by the United States and the Caribbean Community to resign, remains outside of the country, unable to return.

In response to the attacks, Haiti recently extended a 72-hour state of emergency and curfew to a month, and deployed members of its fledgling army to assist the Haiti National Police. To help in the fight against gangs, the U.S. government recently provided the police with additional ammunition.

The U.S. embassy has been limited its operations throughout the crisis.

The White House declined to comment, referring to Southern Command. The State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In October, the United Nations approved a Multinational Security Support mission for Haiti. Henry was in Nairobi signing a security sharing agreement with the East African nation when the violence escalated. Despite the agreement, the force’s deployment has been hobbled by a lack of funding. Republican lawmakers in the U.S. Congress are refusing to release a hold on funding, requested by the Biden administration, amid questions about the mission while the international community has been slow to contribute to a U.N. Trust Fund set up to finance the operation.

Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols told the Miami Herald that the administration remains committed to expediting the deployment of the Kenyan-led mission to Haiti, and is closely monitoring the situation.

“It’s urgent,” he said of the funding needs. “Every day matters, every day the lives and welfare of ordinary Haitians. If you care about humanitarian issues around the world, there is no crisis that is worse than the situation in Haiti right now.”

U.S. Southern Command said despite the evacuations the embassy embassy remains focused on advancing U.S. government efforts to support the Haitian people, including mobilizing support for the Haiti National Police, expediting the security mission’s deployment and accelerating a peaceful transition of power via free and fair elections.

“As announced in September 2023, the Department of Defense is postured to provide robust enabling support for the MSS, including planning assistance, information sharing, airlift, communications, and medical support,” U.S. Southern Command said.

Source: AOL

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