The New Year started off in a dangerous way for Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who narrowly escaped an attempt on his life while in the northern part of the country.
On Monday (January 3rd), Henry’s office relayed news of the incident to the press. Prime Minister Henry and other officials from the government were attending a New Year’s Mass that was held to commemorate the nation’s independence from France in 1804 at the Cathedral of St. Charles Borromeo in the northern city of Gonaïves. Describing the assailants as “bandits and terrorists”, the statement reported that they found that they had stationed soldiers at the walls of the church to attack them.
A person who attended the mass reported to local newspaper that Henry’s convoy was greeted with automatic gunfire, preventing him from making a planned speech to those gathered. One person was allegedly killed, and two were allegedly wounded in the attack. The prime minister sent out his thanks via social media to the bishop of Gonaives and other church officials for their service “despite the tense situation that reigned in the city.” Officials have declared that arrest warrants have been issued for those suspected of carrying out the attack.
It is believed that gangs in Gonaïves are responsible for the assassination attempt, as they had sent out a public warning prior to the mass that they were opposed to Henry’s visit. Gang violence has been a constant issue since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last July, to the point where they’ve wreaked havoc on citizens and businesses and even foreign nationals as exemplified by the abduction of 17 American missionaries for ransom in October of last year. Many believe that the gangs, which reportedly control sizable sections of Haiti after Moïse’s murder, are aided by corrupt police, threatening Henry’s already tenuous position.