U.N. troops raid Haitian slum, at least 5 killed

By Joseph Guyler Delva

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, July 6 (Reuters) - U.N. troops raided the base of an illegal armed group in the Port-au-Prince slum of Cite Soleil on Wednesday and at least five people were killed, witnesses and U.N. officials said.

More than 350 U.N. troops in armored carriers stormed a house where gang leader Emmanuel Wilme, known as Dread Wilme, was believed to have taken refuge, said Col. Eloufi Boulbars, a military spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti.

He said at least five people were killed. Other witnesses said at least 10 people were shot dead during the raid in which several dozen Haitian police also took part.

"We saw five people killed, that's what we could count," Boulbars told Reuters. "Armed bandits who had tried to resist were either killed or wounded."

No U.N. peacekeepers were injured in the early morning raid, which was part of an effort to end the rampant violence that plagues the Haitian capital, Boulbars said.

Several Cite Sole residents said Wilme was among those killed, and a spokesman at the United Nations in New York also said Wilme was dead. But police and U.N. officials in Haiti said they could confirm only that Wilme had been seriously wounded.

Wilme, a loyalist to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, led a well-armed gang that has waged deadly gunfights with rival gangs in Cite Soleil.

"The Dread has been killed. They are killing us, we, Aristide's children, we may be killed, but we'll continue to fight for Aristide's return," said a young partisan of the ousted leader, who vowed revenge.

Aristide fled the country in February 2004 in the face of an armed revolt and under U.S. and French pressure to quit. He is living in exile in South Africa.

An interim government has scheduled elections to choose a new president and parliament on Dec. 13, with a possible runoff on Dec. 18. A ballot to elect local government officials is scheduled for Oct. 9.

The Secretary-General for the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, condemned the violence that has threatened the election and promised OAS assistance to ensure the elections are free, credible and fair.

"Haitians should be able to register in great numbers and the registration process should be reliable," said Insulza, who joined election officials to inaugurate a voter registration office in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday. "The problem now is to convince Haitians to go and register, in order to take part in the vote."

A U.N. spokesman in New York said the operation included soldiers from Brazil, Peru, Jordan and Uruguay and civilian police from China, part of a peacekeeping force sent in to stabilize Haiti after Aristide's departure.

(Additional reporting by Evelyn Leopold at the United Nations)


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