January 12, 2007
Residents of a gang-controlled slum surrendered two high-powered rifles Friday, three weeks after the weapons were removed from a U.N. armored personnel carrier that came under attack.
U.N. peacekeepers were driving through the seaside Cite Soleil slum on Dec. 21 when their vehicle broke down. The troops tried to fix it but came under heavy fire from unknown assailants and fled in another armored vehicle.
U.N. troops and Haitian police raided the slum the next day in a previously planned operation and killed at least six people. They found the abandoned armored vehicle burned and stripped of its M-50 assault rifle and another large caliber firearm.
In a brief hand-over Friday, the 4-foot-long (1.2-meter-long) weapons were loaded onto a pickup truck and taken to a U.N. base under escort by Filipino peacekeepers as AP journalists and dozens of onlookers watched.
“We’re turning over the guns, so now we want peace,” said Frantz Mar Guerrier of the Cite Soleil Development Committee, which said it organized the weapons hand over. “We always intended to return them, as that was the will of the community.”
A U.N. spokeswoman declined to comment Friday evening, saying she had not independently confirmed the hand over.
Guerrier said the weapons were taken “out of frustration over the killings of our people by Minustah,” using the acronym for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti.
The United Nations said the six people killed in the Dec. 22 raid were later identified as gang members wanted for a string of recent kidnappings. However, Cite Soleil residents said 10 people were killed and that all were civilians.
U.N. peacekeepers had no casualties.
The U.N. weapons can only be fired when connected to the armored vehicle. Their loss was an embarrassment for the 8,800-strong U.N. force, which has struggled to rout armed gangs that flourished in the aftermath of a February 2004 revolt that toppled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
U.N. troops and gangs wage frequent gunbattles in Cite Soleil, a bullet-scarred slum of 200,000 people who live mostly in squalid, dirt-floor hovels or scrap-metal shacks.