A powerful gang opened fire on a large group of parishioners led by a pastor as they, armed with machetes, marched through the outskirts of the Haitian capital to rid the area of gang members.
The attack was filmed in real time by journalists on site and several people were killed and others injured, Marie Yolène Gilles, head of human rights group Fondasyon Je Klere, told The Associated Press.
She watched online as hundreds of people from a local church marched through Canaan, a makeshift town on the outskirts of the capital Port-au-Prince founded by survivors who lost their homes in the devastating 2010 earthquake.
It was not immediately clear how many people were killed and injured in the attack.
Canaan is controlled by a gang led by a man identified only as “Jeff” and believed to be allied with the “5 Seconds” gang.
Since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, the gangs have grown in power and are estimated to control up to 80% of Port-au-Prince.
Gédéon Jean, director of the Haitian Center for Human Rights Analysis and Research, told the AP that he also followed the incident online and plans to ask the Justice Ministry to investigate.
He accused the pastor of irresponsibility for “hiring a group of people and putting them in such a situation.”
The parishioners clutching machetes and shouting “Free Canaan!” were no match for the gang members armed with assault rifles.
“The police should have stopped her from leaving,” Jean said. “It is extremely terrible for the state to allow something like this to happen.”
A spokesman for the Haitian National Police did not respond for comment.
According to the latest United Nations statistics, more than 2,400 people were killed, more than 950 kidnapped and another 902 injured in Haiti from January 1 to August 15.
Fed up with the increase in gang violence, Haitians in April organized a violent movement called “Bwa Kale” targeting suspected gang members. According to the United Nations, more than 350 people have been killed since the uprising began
In October, the Haitian government called for the immediate deployment of a foreign force to quell gang violence.
The Kenyan government has offered to lead a multinational force, and a delegation of senior officials from the east African country recently visited Haiti on a reconnaissance mission.
The US said earlier this month that it would introduce a UN Security Council resolution authorizing Kenya to take such action.