At least eight people were shot or hacked to death when police and machete-wielding civilians went on the rampage among spectators at a “Play for Peace” football match in Haiti.
The game, in Port-au-Prince’s hillside slum of Martissant, was funded by the United States government as part of a drive to steer young people away from gang violence, and what took place has fuelled fears of state-sponsored terrorism in the run-up to elections later this year.
Hooded police first went into the ground and ordered the 6,000 spectators to leave. Suddenly, gunshots rang out and people began to run for the walled ground’s only exit.
Witnesses claim the police began firing wantonly.
Outside, more police and civilians armed with machetes—said by local people to be paid police informants known as “attaches”—attacked people trying to flee.
“They came to massacre us,” said Nesly Devla, 20, who was struck with a machete. “Everyone was on top of each other. There was nowhere to run. God saved me.”
One community leader claimed that at least 30 people were killed, some of them shot by the police. The killings come less than a month after two other machete attacks that also appeared to take place with police complicity.
The incidents all occurred in poor areas of Port-au-Prince considered bastions of support for Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the exiled former president.
Anne Sosin, of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, who criticised UN peacekeepers for not intervening, said she had confirmed the deaths of at least eight people but expected the death toll to be much higher.
“How can you explain police accompanied by individuals armed with machetes massacring spectators at a soccer match in broad daylight with UN troops standing by literally across the street?
“This event needs to serve as a wake-up call for the international community, which for more than a year has failed to respond to grave violations of human rights in Haiti.”
The head of the international police force in the area, Lieutenant-Colonel Philippe Espie, of France, said the incident was being investigated, and suggested local people had decided to attack gang members attracted to the game.