UN seeks SWAT team, spies, road projects in Haiti

By Irwin Arieff
UNITED NATIONS, July 28 (Reuters) - A senior U.N. official urged the Security Council on Thursday to reinforce the peacekeeping mission in Haiti with a "SWAT" team and an intelligence unit to boost its fight against criminal gangs.

But just putting an end to street gangs, killings and kidnappings is not enough, said U.N. peacekeeping head Jean-Marie Guehenno.

He said it was equally important to launch projects like road construction and ensure all political factions participate in elections due in November.

Haitians "have to see that the mission is making progress and also making a difference in their lives," he told reporters after briefing the 15-nation council behind closed doors.

A SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team would help peacekeepers cope with gang leaders and hostage-takers, he said. In a densely populated setting, "these are highly trained individuals who can do the job quickly and efficiently without risk to the surrounding civilian population."

As for intelligence agents, he said, "the best possible information on the ground is helpful and possibly having some very specialized capacities would help on the security front."

Guehenno said the United Nations was investigating allegations of high civilian casualties during a July 6 anti-gang raid in Cite Soleil, Haiti's largest slum.

Rights groups and residents said U.N. peacekeepers and Haitian police killed numerous civilian bystanders during the raid, but U.N. officials said they were unaware of any unarmed civilian deaths.

Guehenno said the mission had heard that a number of revenge killings took place after the raid, something that might explain the finding of civilian bodies at the site.

While the account was unconfirmed, "we have every reason to believe that report," he said. "There may have been some civilian casualties, but certainly not in the magnitude mentioned by those who want to discredit MINUSTAH," he said, using the acronym for the U.N. mission in Haiti.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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