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Inmates Escape After an Attack on Haiti’s Largest Prison

Gangs attacked Haiti’s biggest prison and allowed prisoners to escape on Saturday night, according to local police unions and a lawyer for some of the incarcerated, the latest instance of escalating violence and disorder in the country’s capital, which has been ravaged by gang violence for more than two years.

While details of the attack remained murky, at least two of the country’s police unions went on social media on Saturday requesting that all police officers report to the national penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, the capital, to help control the situation and prevent the inmates from fleeing.

“If we let gangs take the penitentiary we are done,” the national police union SNPH-17 said in a post on X. “No one will be spared in the capital.”

Haiti’s national penitentiary — with nearly 4,000 inmates, though built to hold only 800 — has several high-profile inmates, such as the Colombian commandos accused of being part of the group that killed Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moïse, in 2021.

A Haitian lawyer for several of the soldiers accused in the assassination, Samuel Madistin, told The New York Times that he had spoken to his clients who said the national penitentiary was nearly emptied of inmates. Only those who were too old or disabled to flee and those accused in the Moïse killing remained, Mr. Madistin said, for fear of being hunted down if they left the prison.

Videos circulating on social media on Sunday appeared to show journalists wandering through parts of the national penitentiary mostly empty of prisoners.

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