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Haiti rebels kill police chief, officers
Updated: 2004-02-17 09:56

Haiti's rebellion spread to the central city of Hinche on Monday as rebels and former soldiers killed at least three officers at a police station. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide pleaded for foreign help to stop the bloodshed.

The rebels descended on the police station in Hinche, about 70 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince, according to a Haitian security official who spoke on condition of anonymity. They killed district police chief Maxime Jonas, pushed police out of the city and threatened government supporters, the official said.

At least 56 people have died since the rebellion aimed at ousting Aristide exploded Feb. 5 in the city of Gonaives.

About 50 rebels descended on the police station in Hinche, about 70 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince. They killed district police chief Maxime Jonas, pushed police out of the city and freed prisoners from the jail before burning the station.

Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a former Haitian soldier who led a paramilitary group known as the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, or FRAPH, which killed and maimed hundreds of people between 1991 and 1994, reportedly led the attack, according to witnesses.

The attack was considered a serious blow and the first to the city of 50,000 people where corn, millet and beans are produced. The rebels now control most roads leading in and out of the Artibonite district, a rich agricultural area home to almost 1 million people.

"Blood has flowed in Hinche," Arstide told reporters at a news conference late Monday, saying he had asked for technical assistance from the Organization of American States. "It may be that the police cannot cope with this kind of attack."

Aristide refused to talk about strategies for halting the unrest or whether he would ask for military assistance. He did, however, say the government would use peaceful means to quell the uprising that has prevented food, fuel and medical shipments.

"A group of terrorists are breaking democratic order," Aristide said. "We have the responsibility to use the law and dialogue to take a peaceful way."

Rebels armed with machetes and rifles escorted an aid convoy led by the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross into Gonaives on Monday. The convoy was carrying 1.6 tons of supplies, including blood and surgical equipment.

A surgeon and a physician were also sent to treat some 40 people wounded in the fighting.

"We are here to bring urgently needed medical assistance to Gonaives," Pedro Isely, leader of the Red Cross mission in Haiti, said Monday after arriving in the city.

In addition to the medical relief, the international non-governmental organization, CARE, began distributing food to people in Gonaives. About 50,000 people will receive a gallon of vegetable oil, while others will get sacks of cereals, said Sandy Laumark, director of CARE in Haiti. The distribution will last about 10 days.

The rebels launched the rebellion from Gonaives, 70 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince, unleashing a deadly wave of violence that has spread to more than a dozen towns. Both sides have suffered casualties.

On Sunday night, Aristide loyalists reportedly killed two anti-government supporters in the port town of St. Marc.

Although the rebels are thought to number less than Haiti's 5,000-member police force, exiled paramilitary leaders and police have joined their forces, vowing to oust Aristide.

"They have joined us. We have created a national resistance," Winter Etienne, one of the rebel leaders in Gonaives, said Monday. "We're going to take a major part of Haiti."

Also helping is Guy Philippe, a former police chief who fled to the Dominican Republic after being accused by the Haitian government of fomenting a coup in 2002.

"We don't have any platform," said Philippe, 35, in an interview taped Saturday that was obtained by Associated Press Television News. "Our fight is for a better country ... We are fighting for the presidency, we're fighting for the people."

In an attempt to keep police and government supporters out, the rebels have used shipping containers to block the highway leading into Gonaives. The blockades have halted most food, fuel and medical shipments to more than 250,000 people.

The unrest has also affected hospitals. In St. Marc, rebels torched a clinic. In Gonaives, a gunbattle between police and rebels left three dead inside the hospital.

Hospital administrator Gabriel Honorat said the wounded are being cared for in their homes.

"We have no medicine. It is urgent," he said.

Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, is sending 16 tons of medical equipment to Haiti. The supplies consist mainly of surgical and dressing kits for hospitals and clinics helped by the aid group, said Erwin Vantland, a spokesman.

Discontent has grown in this Caribbean country of 8 million people since Aristide's party swept flawed legislative elections in 2000 and international donors froze millions of dollars.

The unrest has deepened as more people have taken sides in the fight.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday the United States and other nations "will accept no outcome that ... attempts to remove the elected president of Haiti."

The United States sent 20,000 troops to Haiti in 1994 to end a bloody military dictatorship, restore Aristide and halt an exodus of refugees to Florida.

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