Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse has been killed in an attack on his home in the nation’s capital, according to the country’s interim prime minister.
Claude Joseph said unidentified armed men stormed the President’s home in Port-au-Prince at 01:00 local time (05:00 GMT).
First Lady Martine Moïse was injured in the attack. Mr. Joseph said that “all measures had been taken to guarantee the continuity of the state.”
He has now taken control of the impoverished Caribbean nation and has urged the public to remain calm. He called the shooting of the President a “heinous, inhuman and barbaric act.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was “shocked and saddened at the death of Mr. Moïse,” calling it “an abhorrent act” and appealing for calm. The White House called the killing a “horrific crime.”
The neighbouring Dominican Republic ordered the “immediate closure” of its border with Haiti.
Jovenel Moïse, 53, had been in power since February 2017. His time in office was rocky as he faced accusations of corruption and was challenged by waves of often violent anti-government protests.
There were widespread demonstrations in the capital and other cities earlier this year, as people demanded his resignation.
Haiti’s opposition said that Mr. Moïse’s five-year term should have ended on 7 February 2021, five years to the day since his predecessor, Michel Martelly, stepped down.
But there had been a year’s delay to elections after Mr. Martelly’s departure, and Mr. Moïse insisted he had one more year to serve as he did not take office until 7 February 2017.
In February this year, on the day the opposition wanted him to leave office, Mr. Moïse said an attempt to kill him and overthrow the government had been foiled.
Chronic instability, dictatorships, and natural disasters have left Haiti one of the poorest nations in the Americas.
Haiti country profile
It has seen an increase in violent gang crime and kidnappings as well as worsening living standards in a nation where nearly 60% already live below the poverty line.
An earthquake in 2010 killed more than 200,000 people and caused extensive damage to infrastructure and the economy.
A UN peacekeeping force was put in place in 2004 to help stabilise the country and only withdrew in 2017.