Gangs attacked two prisons in Haiti, including the country’s largest penitentiary, and allowed prisoners to escape on Saturday night, according to Haitian officials, the latest instance of escalating violence and disorder in the country’s capital, which has been ravaged by gang violence for more than two years.

While details of the attack remained murky, the government of Haiti released a statement Sunday saying that police officers were unable to prevent gang members from releasing “a large number of prisoners,” adding that several inmates and prison staff were injured.

Haiti’s national penitentiary held nearly 4,000 inmates at the time of the attack and the other facility, the Croix-des-Bouquets Civil Prison, held roughly 1,400, according to local human rights groups.

At least two of the country’s police unions went on social media on Saturday requesting that all police officers report to the national prison in Port-au-Prince, the capital, to help control the situation and prevent the inmates from fleeing.

“If we let gangs take the penitentiary we are done,” the national police union SNPH-17 said in a post on X. “No one will be spared in the capital.”

Haiti’s national penitentiary — built to hold only 800 — houses several high-profile inmates, such as the Colombian commandos accused of being part of the group that killed Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moïse, in 2021.


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