Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was shot dead in his home by mercenaries, interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph confirmed.

Moïse, 53, has been the President of Haiti since 2017, but his term has not been a stable one. In 2019, calls for his resignation grew into a crisis of political unrest. Much of the upheaval was centered around accusations of fraud in his election. Only a quarter of Haitians voted in the 2016 special election, and five different candidates claimed victory before the initial results were announced, leading many to suspect an illegitimate election. Others insisted his 5-year term ought to end at the beginning of 2020, since he was first elected in the vacated 2015 election.

Early the morning of Wednesday, July 7, heavily armed gunmen broke into Moïse’s home in Port-au-Prince, killing Jovenel Moïse and badly wounding his wife, Martine Moïse. She remains in critical condition and is being moved to Miami for treatment. As soon as the assassination was discovered, Haitian authorities declared a “state of siege” in the impoverished nation, closing the international airports and ordering the streets to be cleared.

Continuing unrest is reported, including gunshots in the streets of Port-au-Prince, but without details.

“I thought there was an earthquake, there was so much shooting,” said a woman who lives near the president’s home. Having heard the attack, she fears for her life and has only spoken out under anonymity. “The president had problems with many people, but this is not how we expected him to die. This is something I wouldn’t wish on any Haitian.”

Joseph, who was only appointed interim Prime Minister this April after the premature resignation of Joseph Jouth, has now found himself Acting President. He condemns his predecessor’s killing as a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act.”

Precisely who committed the assassination is still unknown. According to the authorities, the gunmen were well-trained and posed as agents of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

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