Latest Caribbean and Latin America News

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

The content originally appeared on: Latin America News – Aljazeera

Heavily armed gangs have tried to seize control of Haiti’s main international airport, exchanging gunfire with police and soldiers.

The Toussaint Louverture International Airport was closed at the time of the attack on Monday, with no planes operating and no passengers on site. It was the latest attack on key government sites in an explosion of violence that includes a mass escape from the country’s two biggest prisons.

It was far from the first assault targeting the transport hub amid a series of gang attacks. Last week, bullets had struck the airport, but the attackers did not enter the premises.

The latest attack came hours after the Haitian authorities ordered a night-time curfew following violence in which armed gangs overran the two biggest prisons and freed thousands of inmates over the weekend.

A 72-hour state of emergency began on Sunday night as the authorities launched a hunt for the killers, kidnappers and other violent criminals they said had escaped.

Gangs have been estimated to control up to 80 percent of the capital, Port-au-Prince. They are increasingly coordinating their actions and aiming at once unthinkable targets like the Central Bank.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry travelled to Kenya last week to try to salvage support for a United Nations-backed security force to help stabilise Haiti amid the conflict with the increasingly powerful crime groups.

The surge in violence follows protests that turned deadly.

Having taken over as prime minister following the 2021 assassination of Jovenel Moise, Henry has postponed plans to hold parliamentary and presidential elections, which have not happened in almost a decade.

Jimmy Cherizier, a former elite police officer known as Barbecue who now runs a gang federation, has claimed responsibility for the attacks. He said the goal was to capture Haiti’s police chief and government ministers and prevent Henry’s return from Kenya.

The prime minister has shrugged off calls for him to resign but did not comment when asked if he felt it was safe to return home.