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Haiti's main international airport reopens nearly three months after gang violence forced it to close

Haiti's main international airport reopens nearly three months after gang violence forced it to close


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti's main international airport reopened Monday for the first time in nearly three months after unrelenting gang violence forced authorities to close it to all traffic in early March.

The reopening of Toussaint-Louverture airport in the capital Port-au-Prince is expected to help ease critical shortages of medicine and other basic supplies as the country's main seaport remains paralyzed.

However, only Sunrise Airways, a local carrier, is currently flying in and out of Port-au-Prince. US-based airlines are not expected to begin doing so until late May or early June.

The first scheduled flight was from Sunrise Airways to Miami and scheduled to depart at 2:30 PM EDT.

Before Monday's reopening, the only airport operating in Haiti was the one located in the northern coastal city of Cap-Hatien. However, it was impossible to escape the country, as the roads leading from Port-au-Prince to Cap-Hatien are controlled by gangs who have opened fire on passing cars and buses.

As a result, the US government evacuated hundreds of its citizens by helicopter from a hilly neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, as well as non-profit organizations, as powerful gangs surrounded parts of the capital.

The attacks began on February 29, with gunmen taking control of police stations, opening fire at Port-au-Prince airport and storming Haiti's two largest prisons, freeing more than 4,000 inmates.

The gangs have since directed their attacks on previously peaceful communities, leaving thousands homeless.

More than 2,500 people have been killed or injured in Haiti from January to March, an increase of more than 50% compared to the same period last year, according to the United Nations.

The airport attack left former prime minister Ariel Henry locked out of Haiti as he was on an official trip to Kenya at the time. He has since resigned and a transitional presidential council is looking for a new prime minister for Haiti. It is also tasked with electing a new cabinet and organizing general elections.

In recent weeks, US military planes have landed at Port-au-Prince airport with supplies, including medicine and hydration fluids, as well as civilian contractors to help Haiti prepare for the arrival of foreign forces expected to help quell the violence caused by the gangs that control 80% of the capital.

On Sunday, Korir Singoei, Kenya's principal foreign affairs secretary, said a plan to deploy police officers from the East African country was in its final stages.

I can tell you for sure that that deployment will happen in the next few days, several weeks, he said.

Singoei added that there is no chance at all of Kenyan President William Ruto visiting Haiti.

Ruto was scheduled to depart Kenya on Sunday for a four-day official visit to the US, where he is expected to meet with President Joe Biden.

In March, Kenya and Haiti signed agreements to salvage a plan for the African country to deploy 1,000 police officers to the troubled Caribbean nation to help quell the violence.

Other countries expected to support Kenyan forces include the Bahamas, Barbados, Benin, Chad and Bangladesh. It was not immediately clear when those forces would arrive.




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