Haitian police close net in probe of Haitian president's murder

Port-au-Prince (AFP) –


The assassination of Jovenel Moise by armed mercenaries was planned in the neighboring Dominican Republic, say Haitian police, who announced the detention of the slain president's chief bodyguard and three other members of his security detail.

The apparent ease with which a hit squad entered the Haitian leader's residence in Port-au-Prince and shot him dead, with no injuries to his bodyguards, has raised suspicions that the July 7 attack may have been an inside job.

A photograph circulating on social media identifies two suspects -- both later arrested -- meeting former Haitian opposition senator Joel John Joseph, who is wanted by police.

According to Haitian national police director Leon Charles, the picture was taken as the trio were in the Dominican capital plotting to kill Moise, whose body was found riddled with bullets.

"They met in a hotel in Santo Domingo," Charles told reporters. "Around the table there are the architects of the plot, a technical recruitment team and a finance group."

"Some individuals in the photo have already been apprehended, such as Dr. Christian Emmanuel Sanon and James Solages," Charles added.

- US connections -

Both suspects are Haitian-Americans. Police say Solages coordinated with Miami-based Venezuelan security firm CTU as part of the plot.

"The head of the firm, Antonio Emmanuel Intriago Valera, is in the picture," said Charles. "He entered Haiti several times to plan the assassination."

Florida-based financial services company Worldwide Capital Lending Group funded the attack, Charles said, adding that its boss Walter Veintemilla also appears with the plotters.

Three Colombian mercenaries have been killed and 18 arrested by Haitian police.

"There was a group of four (mercenaries) who were already in the country. The others entered on June 6. They went through the Dominican Republic. We traced the credit card that was used to buy the plane tickets," said Charles.

"They are former Colombian special force operatives. They are experts, criminals. This was a well-planned attack," the police chief added.

Among the four presidential security officials placed in solitary confinement at the police headquarters were Dimitri Herard, the head of Moise's personal security detail and three others. Another 24 were subject to inquiries, Charles said.

Haiti has called on the United States -- which has trained Colombian forces in the past -- for help in shedding light on who was behind the assassination.

"A review of our training databases indicates that a small number of the Colombian individuals detained as part of this investigation had participated in past US military training and education programs, while serving as active members of the Colombian military forces," said Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ken Hoffman.

He said he had nothing to add as the "review is ongoing."

Meanwhile, the first images of the Moise's wounded widow, who was evacuated to Florida for medical care after the attack, were posted Thursday.

"Thank you for the team of guardian angels who helped me through this terrible time," 47-year-old Martine Moise said on Twitter, alongside a photograph of her in hospital with a heavily bandaged arm.

"With your gentle touch, kindness and care, I was able to hold on."

In a message written in Creole, she said the pain of losing her husband "will never pass."