A heavily armed gang surrounded a hospital in Haiti on Wednesday, trapping women, children and newborns inside until police came to their rescue, according to the medical center’s director who launched an appeal for help on social media.
Jose Ulysse, founder and director of the Fontaine Hospital Center in the sprawling Cité Soleil slum in the capital Port-au-Prince, told The Associated Press that gangs were burning down houses surrounding the hospital and preventing anyone from entering. found inside to leave the premises. He previously said it appeared gangs had entered the hospital.
According to Mr. Ulysse, the Haitian National Police responded to his call for help and arrived with three armored trucks to evacuate 40 children and 70 patients to a private home in a safer part of the city. Among those evacuated were children on oxygen.
“The gangs completely control the area,” he added.
A spokesperson for the Haitian National Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The hospital is seen as an oasis and a lifeline in a community overrun by gangs who have unleashed increasingly violent attacks on each other, with civilians who live in Cité Soleil regularly raped, beaten or killed .
Mr. Ulysse identified those responsible as members of the Brooklyn gang, led by Gabriel Jean-Pierre, better known as “Ti Gabriel.” Gabriel Jean-Pierre is also the leader of a powerful gang alliance known as G-Pep, one of two rival coalitions in Haiti.
The Brooklyn gang has some 200 members and controls certain communities in Cité Soleil, including Brooklyn. It is involved in extortion, diversion of goods and general violence against civilians, according to a recent UN report.
“The G-Pep coalition and its allies have significantly strengthened their cooperation and diversified their income, in particular by carrying out kidnappings for ransom, which allowed them to strengthen their combat capacity,” the report indicates.
When The Associated Press visited the Fontaine Hospital Center earlier this year, Mr. Ulysse said in an interview that gangs had already targeted him personally twice.
Since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, gangs have continued to gain power in Haiti, and the number of kidnappings and assassinations is increasing.
Earlier this year, at least 20 armed gang members burst into a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders and kidnapped a patient from an operating room. The criminals had entered the hospital by simulating a life-threatening emergency, the organization said.