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Posted Thursday, June 15, 2006
Haiti ultra-violent gangs kill three Haitian police, nine others
By Joseph Guyler Delva, Reuters Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jun. 15, 2006 (Reuters) - Armed gangs have targeted police officers in a new outbreak of violence that has killed 12 people in Haiti, including three policemen, in the last five days, a police spokesman said on Thursday.

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Haitians stand in front of policemen during a protest calling for the release of all political prisoners and the return of the former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in front of Justice Palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, June 14, 2006. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

"These attacks were not carried out at random," said police spokesman Frantz Leurebours. "The police have particularly been targeted in this increase of criminal activities."

Several other police officers have escaped assassination attempts, he said. Nearly 100 police officers have been gunned down in Port-au-Prince during the past 2-1/2 years, police and human rights groups said.

In addition to the three policemen killed, nine residents of Port-au-Prince were also fatally shot in recent days, police said.

Armed gangs in several violent slums in Port-au-Prince had voluntarily put down their weapons a few weeks before Haiti's February 7 presidential election to facilitate the balloting. But gunfire has become more frequent since the winner, President Rene Preval, was inaugurated on May 14.

Gunmen near the Cite Soleil slum exchanged fire on Wednesday in a fight over sports equipment and giant television screens offered by a nongovernmental group to give underprivileged youngsters a chance to watch World Cup soccer being broadcast from Germany.

It was unclear whether anyone was injured in that incident. Similar gunfights occurred in Cite Soleil last week.

Police have also reported several kidnappings over the past few days, though the numbers are well below those seen last year when as many as 10 people a day were abducted at gunpoint and held for ransom, they said.

A member of the lower house of parliament, Aodont Bien-Aime, escaped a kidnapping attempt earlier this week but was injured in a car accident as he tried to outrun armed bandits who were pursuing him.

Police are determined to crack down on criminal gangs, Leurebours said, but it is a tough job since illegal armed groups have refused to give up their weapons.

"The Haitian police, backed by U.N. troops, remain very vigilant, because armed groups can decide any time to take up weapons again," Leurebours said.

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