Sun, Feb 19, 2012 - Page 7 News List

‘Troublemakers’ attack Haitian president

PUBLIC TARGET:The leader was strolling through a plaza, home to almost 20,000 people left homeless after the 2010 earthquake, when rocks were thrown at him

AP, PORT-AU-PRINCE

Haitian President Michel Martelly and his accompanying motorcade were attacked as the leader strolled in downtown Port-au-Prince, the Haitian National Palace said on Friday.

The statement said only that “troublemakers” who had taken refuge in a university were responsible for the afternoon attack on Martelly as he walked near the Champs de Mars plaza in a carnival procession.

Witnesses said that rocks were thrown at the president from behind the University of Haiti.

One witness said he saw Martelly hit in the shoulder by a rock, but that he otherwise he wasn’t injured.

Martelly “almost fell,” said Stanley Lazard, 25. “Two security guards embraced him and put him in the car. He definitely got hit with a rock.”

The presidential office and witnesses both said Martelly had been taken without injury to the nearby National Palace.

Police responded by firing shots in the air and unleashing tear gas as rocks were lobbed over the university fence, Lazard and other witnesses said.

Martelly left the National Palace about an hour later and proceeded by foot under a heavy police presence, before returning to the presidential residence.

The episode led to clashes between students and Martelly supporters, who tore down a fence and entered the school grounds. Students said the president’s backers smashed windows of cars that were parked in the courtyard of the university.

“The people with the president, they came inside and started throwing stones at the students,” sociology student Frantz Legros, 22, told reporters.

“They came to the front to beat the students,” he added.

Another man, Pythagone Dumais, showed reporters a bloody hand and said he was attacked by a Martelly supporter. He said the attacker grabbed a beer bottle from him, smashed it and slashed his hand.

The Haitian Red Cross sent a bus to safely evacuate about a dozen students from Canada, France and Brazil. They were attending a conference with Haitian students.

Government prosecutor Jean-Renel Senatus showed up at the university on Friday evening to begin an investigation as he looked at the damaged vehicles, but declined to comment.

The attack on the president was the second since he was inaugurated in May last year.

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