A heavily armed gang surrounded a hospital in Haiti on Wednesday, trapping women, children and newborns inside until police rescued them, according to the medical center director who called for help via social networks.
José Ulysse, founder and director of the Fontaine hospital center in the sprawling Cité Soleil slum in the capital Port-au-Prince, told the Associated Press that gangs were burning down homes surrounding the hospital and preventing anyone who found there to go out. He said earlier it appeared gangs had entered the hospital.
Ulysse said the Haitian National Police responded to his call for help and arrived with three armored trucks to evacuate 40 children and 70 patients to a private home in a safer part of the city. Among those carefully evacuated were children on oxygen, he said.
“The gangs completely control the area,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Haitian National Police did not immediately return a message for comment.
The hospital is seen as an oasis and a lifeline in a community overrun by gangs who engage in increasingly violent attacks on each other, with civilians living in Cité Soleil regularly raped, beaten or killed .
Ulysse identified those responsible as members of the Brooklyn gang, led by Gabriel Jean-Pierre, better known as “Ti Gabriel”. Jean-Pierre is also the leader of a powerful gang alliance known as G-Pep, one of two rival coalitions in Haiti.
The Brooklyn gang has approximately 200 members and controls certain communities in Cité Soleil, including Brooklyn. They are involved in acts of extortion, embezzlement and general violence against civilians, according to a recent UN report.
“The G-Pep coalition and its allies have significantly strengthened their cooperation and diversified their income, notably by committing kidnappings for ransom, which allowed them to strengthen their combat capacity,” the report said.
When The Associated Press visited Fontaine Hospital earlier this year, Ulysse said in an interview that gangs had personally targeted him twice before.
Gangs across Haiti have become increasingly powerful since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021, and kidnappings and killings continue to increase.
Earlier this year, at least 20 armed gang members burst into a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders and kidnapped a patient from an operating room. The criminals gained access after simulating a life-threatening emergency, the organization said.