Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated Wednesday in a “highly coordinated” attack on his residence, the country’s acting prime minister confirmed in a statement.
The country’s first lady, Martine Moïse, was injured in the attack and was receiving medical treatment.
Claude Joseph, the acting prime minister, said that a group of “highly trained and heavily armed” people attacked Moïse’s residence around 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, shooting him and his wife.
Joseph described the attack as a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act.”
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Joseph called on the international community to launch an investigation into the killing and asked the United Nations to hold a Security Council meeting on the attack “as soon as possible.”
“We urge Haitians to show restraint and maintain a peaceful environment over the coming days,” Joseph said.
Moïse was elected in 2016 and took office in February 2017.
The White House is assessing and gathering information about the “horrific attack,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on MSNBC.
“We’ll be helpful in any way to the people of Haiti, the government of Haiti, if there’s an investigation,” she said.
The U.S. Embassy said it was instructing staff to stay at its compounds in Port-au-Prince until further notice and advised Americans in the country to avoid unnecessary travel.
The Caribbean country of around 11 million is one of the poorest in the Americas. It has been gripped by violence and gridlock in the last few months. Protests against the president turned violent in February.
Opposition leaders demanded that Moïse step down, arguing that his term legally ended in February. Moïse and supporters maintained that his term began when he took office in early 2017, following a chaotic election that forced the appointment of a provisional president to serve during a yearlong gap.