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25587: (news) Chamberlain: Haiti-Slum Raid (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By LEONARDO ALDRIDGE
PORT-AU-PRINCE, July 6 (AP) -- More than 400 U.N. peacekeepers stormed
into a Port-au-Prince slum on Wednesday, in an ongoing effort to halt
violence from armed loyalists of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
At least two men were killed, officials said.
Gunfire crackled from at least four prolonged shootouts between armed
men and U.N. troops in the seaside Cite Soleil shantytown, said Lt. Col.
Jorge Smicelapo, military spokesman for Brazilian troops leading the U.N.
"There were many shots exchanged. It all started early in the morning.
Two bandits were shot dead in the exchange," Smicelapo told The Associated
A powerful pro-Aristide gang leader, Emmanuel "Dread" Wilme, was among
those killed, former Cite Soleil Mayor Ernest Erilus told local Radio
Metropole. The dreadlocked Wilme commanded a gang of young men with weapons
ranging from sawed-off shotguns to AK-47s.
Wilme was at least the second gang leader slain in Cite Soleil this
year. In March, clashes between gangs killed Thomas Robenson, a leader
known as "Labanye" who was once allied with Aristide but turned against him
before his ouster.
Smicelapo could not immediately confirm the identities of those killed.
He said troops made some arrests but could not immediately say how many. No
troops were hurt in the second major offensive on a slum in two weeks,
Peacekeepers stormed the slum of Bel Air last week, killing six men in a
gunbattle and freeing a kidnapped female Red Cross employee.
The 7,400-member peacekeeping mission is intensifying operations to stop
a wave of shootings and kidnappings that could threaten October and
November elections, meant to fill the power vacuum left after the February
2004 rebellion that forced Aristide into exile.
Also Wednesday, Guy Philippe, the leader of last year's uprising,
announced he would run for president, vowing to "change the country and its
elite class as well."
Philippe, a former police chief in northern Haiti, transformed his rebel
army into the National Reconstruction Front party last year, claiming to
have 5,000 members.
"We will go to elections and I will be the presidential candidate,"
Philippe told Radio Vision 2000.
The raids came during a three-day visit by the secretary-general of the
Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, to evaluate elections
preparations stalled by logistical snags.
Insulza inaugurated a voter registration office in Port-au-Prince on
Wednesday, trying to boost a dismally slow registration process. Just
200,000 of Haiti's 4.5 million eligible voters have registered for the
elections, according to official statistics.