A heavily armed gang burst into a hospital in Haiti on Wednesday and took hostage hundreds of women, children and newborns, according to the director of the medical center who pleaded for help via social media.
Jose Ulysse, founder and director of the Fontaine Hospital Center in the sprawling Cite Soleil slum in the capital of Port-au-Prince, confirmed the incident in a brief message exchange with The Associated Press. "We are in great difficulty," he said.
No further details were immediately available, and it was not clear why the assailants may have taken patients hostage. Ulysse did not respond to further questions for comment.
The hospital is considered an oasis and a lifeline in a community overrun by gangs that have unleashed increasingly violent attacks against each other, with civilians who live in Cite Soleil routinely raped, beaten or killed.
FILE: Health workers register a malnourished child at the Fontaine Hospital Center in the Cite Soleil slum in Port-au-Prince on August 4, 2023. Authorities say a gang has taken hundreds of women and children hostage at the same hospital. (Photo by RI
Ulysse identified those responsible as members of the Brooklyn gang, led by Gabriel Jean-Pierre, best known as "Ti Gabriel." Jean-Pierre also is the leader of a powerful gang alliance known as G-Pep, one of two rival coalitions in Haiti.
The Brooklyn gang has some 200 members and controls certain communities within Cite Soleil including Brooklyn. They are involved in extortion, hijacking of goods and general violence against civilians, according to a recent U.N. report.
"The G-Pep coalition and its allies strongly reinforced cooperation and diversified their revenues, in particular by committing kidnapping for ransom, which has enabled them to strengthen their fighting capacity," the report stated.
When The Associated Press visited the Fontaine Hospital Center earlier this year, Ulysse said in an interview that gangs had targeted him personally twice before.
FILE: Health workers weigh a baby at the Fontaine Hospital Center in the Cite Soleil slum in Port-au-Prince on August 4, 2023. Authorities say hundreds of women and children have been taken hostage at the same hospital (Photo by RICHARD PIERRIN/AFP v
Gangs across Haiti have continued to grow more powerful since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, and the number of kidnappings and killings keep rising.
Earlier this year, at least 20 armed gang members burst into a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders and snatched a patient from an operating room. The criminals gained access after faking a life-threatening emergency, the organization said.
Associated Press reporter Dánica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico contributed.