Part of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination early Wednesday morning appears to have been caught on camera.
In a video first shared by the Miami Herald on Wednesday, at least three heavily armed gunmen could be seen standing near a body lying on the ground. A man with an American accent could also be heard shouting in English over a megaphone, “DEA operation. Everybody stand down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down.”
Multiple sources told the Miami Herald that the gunmen were not in fact members of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, as one of them claimed in the video.
“These were mercenaries,” one top Haitian government official told the Miami Herald.
Biden administration officials also reportedly denied DEA involvement in Moïse’s assassination. A U.S. State Department official called the claim “absolutely false.”
President Moïse and his wife were attacked at a private residence near the Haitian capital city of Port-au-Prince. The president’s wife, Martine Moïse, was airlifted to a South Florida hospital to be treated for gunshot wounds on Wednesday afternoon, hours after her husband had been fatally shot.
Moïse was reportedly being protected by a specialized unit of the Haitian National Police, but sources told the Miami Herald there have been concerns about his security for some time. Last August, the head of the Port-au-Prince Bar Association, Monferrier Dorval, was murdered not far from the president’s private residence and no one has been charged.
On Wednesday night, interim Haiti national police chief Leon Charles announced police had surrounded some of the suspected gunmen and were in an ongoing firefight with them. Charles said police had killed four of the suspected gunmen and arrested two others.
“At the moment I am speaking to you now the police is engaged in a battle,” Charles said late Wednesday.
Charles said the Haitian national police were “determined to do their job” and protect the country’s population.
Moïse’s assassination reportedly came as his government faced growing protests, questions about his legitimacy and accusations that he relied on armed gangs to maintain his power.
On Wednesday, Haitian interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph declared the country was in a “state of siege.” The New York Times reported Joseph’s declaration means the country has essentially entered a form of martial law in which police and members of the security forces can enter homes, control traffic and take special security measures and “all general measures that permit the arrest of the assassins” for the next 15 days.