A heavily armed gang surrounded a hospital in Haiti on Wednesday, trapping women, children and newborns inside until police rescued them, according to the director of the medical center who pleaded for help via social media.
Jose Ulysse, founder and director of the Fontaine Hospital Center in the sprawling Cite Soleil slum in the capital of Port-au-Prince, told The Associated Press that gangs were torching homes surrounding the hospital and preventing everyone inside from leaving. He had earlier said that it appeared gangs had entered the hospital.
Ulysse said Haiti's National Police responded to his call for help and 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 delicately evacuated were children on oxygen, he said.
"Gangs are in total control of the area," he said.
A spokesman for Haiti’s National Police did not immediately return a message for comment.
The hospital is considered an oasis and a lifeline in a community overrun by gangs that have unleashed increasingly violent attacks against each other, with civilians who live in Cite Soleil routinely raped, beaten or killed.
Ulysse identified those responsible as members of the Brooklyn gang, led by Gabriel Jean-Pierre, best known as "Ti Gabriel." Jean-Pierre also is the leader of a powerful gang alliance known as G-Pep, one of two rival coalitions in Haiti.
The Brooklyn gang has some 200 members and controls certain communities within Cite Soleil including Brooklyn. They are involved in extortion, hijacking of goods and general violence against civilians, according to a recent U.N. report.
"The G-Pep coalition and its allies strongly reinforced cooperation and diversified their revenues, in particular by committing kidnapping for ransom, which has enabled them to strengthen their fighting capacity," the report stated.
When The Associated Press visited the Fontaine Hospital Center earlier this year, Ulysse said in an interview that gangs had targeted him personally twice before.
Gangs across Haiti have continued to grow more powerful since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, and the number of kidnappings and killings keep rising.
Earlier this year, at least 20 armed gang members burst into a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders and snatched a patient from an operating room. The criminals gained access after faking a life-threatening emergency, the organization said.