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25973: (news) Camberlain: Haiti-Gang Violence (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU
PORT-AU-PORT, Aug 13 (AP) -- One of Haiti's most powerful gang leaders
said he would be willing to surrender if U.N. peacekeepers guarantee his
Armed gang members controlled by the man known as General Toutou are
believed to be behind many of the kidnappings and killings that have added
to the instability in Haiti as the country prepares for fall elections to
replace the interim government.
Toutou, in an interview Friday with The Associated Press, said he has
begun talks on a possible surrender with the U.N. peacekeeping mission that
came to Haiti to restore order following the ouster of the country's first
freely elected leader, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in February 2004.
"If the (U.N. mission) is ready to guarantee our security, we'd be ready
to give up the fight," said Toutou, whose real name is unknown.
A U.N. official declined to discuss any possible deal to guarantee the
Toutou's safety, but said the peacekeeping mission was negotiating with
gangs in Bel-Air, the sprawling slum where the gang leader commands a
well-armed force of street fighters.
"A window of opportunity is opening for us to reduce violence ahead of
the elections," said Desmond Molloy, head of the U.N. disarmament program
Haitian authorities have accused Toutou of involvement in the slaying in
July of a prominent journalist, Jacques Roche, along with dozens of other
killings and kidnappings, and any deal could not include amnesty, said
Judicial Police Chief Michael Lucius said.
"The best I can guarantee is that he will not be hurt in prison if he
surrenders," said Lucius, who added that Toutou's offer suggests that his
power has weakened.
Toutou, 28, denied any connection to the death of Roche, whose killing
prompted widespread outrage and was blamed on supporters of Aristide.
"I swear I have nothing to do with the death of Jacques Roche," Toutou
Authorities have said Roche's death is part of a campaign by supporters
Aristide to force the government into allowing the ousted leader to return
to Haiti from exile in South Africa.
Toutou also said he would do nothing to prevent people from
participating in the fall elections, pointing out that the U.N. has not
been prevented from operating two voter registration centers in Bel-Air --
home to about 300,000 people.