September 23, 2003

Fugitive leader of Haiti's 'Cannibal Army' found shot to death

GONAIVES, Haiti (AP) --Police fired tear gas at crowds who burned tires and blocked
streets on Tuesday to protest the killing of Amiot Metayer, a prison escapee whose
bullet-riddled body was found on a sidestreet.

Metayer, 39, a longtime supporter of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and
leader of the so-called "Cannibal Army," was found Monday night. He was
shot once in each eye and once through the heart, said Daniel Jean-Charles, the
central government's representative.

Some viewed Metayer as a hoodlum, whose gang allegedly terrorized
government opponents and rivals. But others viewed him as a Robin Hood of
sorts, who lavished slumdwellers with gifts.

"We all loved Metayer," said Jean Felix, a 35-year-old mechanic, hours after
police fired tear gas at protesters.

Metayer was arrested on arson charges on May 21, 2002, in connection with
an alleged attack on a rival gang in Gonaives. He broke out of prison in August
2002 with help from supporters. Within days, he was allegedly back in
Gonaives terrorizing Aristide opponents and others.

"He is better off dead," said opposition leader and former Sen. Paul Denis.
"The government he worked for had no interest in having him appear before a
court of justice to answer for his crimes."

Witnesses said Metayer and the Cannibal Army spent months burning down
houses and assaulting Aristide opponents.

In November, seven journalists went into hiding after members of the group
allegedly attacked a radio station.

According to an Organization of American States report, Metayer had also
participated in other attacks on Aristide's opponents, including a Dec. 17
assault on the residence of politician Luc Mesadieu in Gonaives.

Mesadieu's assistant, Ramy Daran, was doused with gasoline and burned to
death. Mesadieu said he saw Metayer giving the order to kill Daran. At least 20
houses were torched.

Authorities failed to recapture Metayer, saying they did not want to raid his
seaside shantytown stronghold of Raboteau and risk sparking a violent
confrontation. In May of 2003, a judge withdrew Metayer's arrest warrant,
saying there were no grounds for the arson case against him.

Some residents blamed Aristide's government for the death.

"Before we cried Aristide or death, now we say that Aristide is not worthy to
hold elections," said Senatus Pierre-Antoine, 35, of the Popular Organiztion for
a Democratic Raboteau, founded by Metayer.

Government spokesman Mario Dupuy said people were looking for an excuse
not to hold elections.

"The opposition wants to see mayhem in Gonaives. That would justify their
position against holding elections." Dupuy said.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.