The Miami Herald
Fri, Apr. 01, 2005

Slum celebrates crook's death

The murder of a gang leader in the Haitian capital sets off celebrations amid hope it'll bring the end of a war that has killed dozens.

Special To The Herald

PORT-AU-PRINCE - One of the capital's top gang leaders was killed in his seaside slum Thursday, setting off waves of celebration among residents who said his gang had terrorized them for months.

Dozens of residents of the Cité Soleil slum have been killed in warfare between a gang loyal to ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and another led by a man known as Labanyé, who supported Aristide until 2003 but later aligned himself with the political opposition Group 184.

The violence since Sept. 30 virtually shut down the sprawling slum and spread into other parts of the capital, raising concerns about the nation's stability after Aristide's ouster in a rebellion one year ago.

Cité Soleil residents said Labanyé, whose real name was Robinson Tomas, was killed by two of his lieutenants with support from a rival gang led by a man known as Dréad Wilné. At least two other members of Labanyé's group were also killed.

Slum residents were jubilant, and about 1,000 people raced through the streets with Aristide posters, singing and dancing with joy.

''Labanyé is dead! Long live Aristide!'' they shouted.

They were accompanied by groups of heavily armed young men in vehicles with license plates showing they belong to government agencies or international organizations. Some of them wore helmets taken from the Cité Soleil police station, which was pillaged Thursday.

A truck driver was shot in the head and killed near the entrance to Cité Soleil. Bystanders said he had refused to stop at a gang roadblock.

Labanyé's body was dragged through the streets and then left in the doorway of a destroyed hovel. His head was smashed in with rocks and a dead dog was placed on top of his body.

Although U.N. peacekeepers and Haitian police reportedly carried out a raid in Cité Soleil in the morning as part of stepped up efforts to disarm gangs there, by mid-morning the U.N. presence was scant.

The slum remained clearly under the control of gang members, but a U.N. spokesman said the area was surrounded. ''We are now controlling the whole outside of the area,'' U.N. spokesman Damien Onses-Cardona told The Herald.

A few armored personnel carriers were posted on the outskirts of the slum, and now and then one would barrel down one of the few paved roads,sirens blaring, blue helmeted soldiers hunkered down in the gun turrets.

But no troops on foot were inside the slum. And within sight of those tanks, people were pillaging the pock-marked police station at the entrance to the slum.