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Posted Saturday, July 14, 2007
More than 250,000 illegal weapons now circulate in the streets of Haiti
By Agence France-Presse

PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) - Massive numbers of illegal guns circulate on Haiti's streets as a program meant to disarm gangs met with little success since its launch one year ago, police say.

The initiative, led by the United Nations in cooperation with local police, has resulted in numerous arrests in some of the most violent neighborhoods, and many gang leaders have been either arrested or killed by security forces.

Despite small steps toward collecting weapons from gang members who willingly turn them over to officials, those who patrol the streets say the major problems are unabated.

"The notorious criminals have been apprehended or killed but their soldiers are still out there with their weapons," said policeman Daniel Clervaux whose beat is the gang stronghold in Cite Soleil, a huge, violent slum in the capital.

"Even if today the gunfire ceases, the weapons are still in Cite Soleil, and there would be more than 10,000 of them," he said.

Another police officer, who declined to give his name for publication, said many weapons are stockpiled in shantytowns and could be brought out at any moment.

Alix Fils-Aime, who heads a government commission on disarmament, said "if such large quantities of weapons exist, they are being stored in conditions that would render them useless."

Fils-Aime said he works "on the ground" and has "never seen this arsenal."

He said around 200 weapons have been collected along with 6,000 rounds of ammunition. However, a Swiss non-governmental group estimated in 2005 that at least 250,000 illegal weapons were circulating in the streets.

Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse

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