Haiti president Jovenel Moïse has been assassinated and his wife wounded in an attack at their home, yesterday, the interim prime minister has announced.
A group of unidentified gunmen attacked Moïse’s private residence overnight on Wednesday and shot him dead, interim prime minister Claude Joseph said.
Joseph said he was now in charge of the country and urged the public to remain calm while insisting the police and army would ensure people’s security.
Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, was already in a precarious political situation before the assassination, having grown increasingly unstable and disgruntled under Moïse.
Moïse, who was 53, ruled by decree for more than two years after the country failed to hold elections and the opposition demanded his resignation in recent months.
The assassination risks further destabilising the Caribbean nation.
Interim prime minister Claude Joseph declared a state of emergency amid confusion over who would take over the reins of the country.
“My compatriots, remain calm because the situation is under control,” Joseph said in televised remarks after chairing a cabinet meeting.
Journalist Kim Ives, an editor with the newspaper Haiti Liberte, said the Caribbean nation now faces a volatile situation.
“I imagine now the US, which holds the predominant weight in Haiti, will try to bring about some kind of transitional government,” Ives told Al Jazeera in a television interview.
“The streets, though, are to be very hot. There are armed neighbourhood organisations which have called for a revolution against the system in Haiti,” he said.
The attack appeared to have been planned and “well-funded”, Ives said.
“They had nine new Nissan pickup trucks. They knew the layout of the president’s house. They had inside information, clearly,” he added.
All flights in and out of Haiti’s main airport in the capital Port au Prince have been cancelled or delayed until further notice, according to Sunrise airways, which uses the airport as a hub.
The move is “due to the current situation in Haiti” and “in order to protect staff, passengers and equipment [sic]” the airline’s website says.
Flight booking sites did not show any available flights into or out of the airport for Wednesday.