Associated Press
Mon, Feb. 16, 2004

Exiled Paramilitaries Join Haiti Rebels

Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - A rebel force trying to oust President Jean-Bertrand Aristide grew in size as former exiled paramilitary troops joined the insurrection and aid workers hurried to get doctors and supplies to the cut-off north.

A humanitarian convoy left from Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, for St. Marc, a northern port city where rebels burned the police station and torched a clinic. The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross would lead the convoy, officials said.

Rebel roadblocks have halted most food and fuel shipments since the unrest began. Emergency supplies of flour, cooking oil and other basics are projected to run out in days in northern areas, where roadblocks are guarded by rebels.

The rebels launched a rebellion on Feb. 5 from Gonaives, 70 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince. Although the rebels are thought to number less than Haiti's 5,000-member police force, exiled paramilitary leaders and police have reportedly joined them.

One of those reportedly is Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a former Haitian soldier who headed army death squads in 1987 and a militia known as the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, or FRAPH. The group allegedly killed and maimed hundreds of people between 1991 and 1994.

Several people in Gonaives said they saw Chamblain, who fled to the Dominican Republic in the mid-'90s.

Also spotted was 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.

In the video obtained by Associated Press Television News, Philippe appears laughing while surrounded by a handful of rebels Saturday in Gonaives.

Philippe, 35, said he has been in the Dominican Republic and Ecuador since fleeing Haiti in 2000.

"We don't have any platform," he said. "Our fight is for a better country ... We are fighting for the presidency, we're fighting for the people, for our convictions."

Philippe said the rebels have an arsenal of weapons and he doesn't think it's in U.S. interests to pursue another intervention.

"We don't want to fight with them," he said. "We are fighting for our own cause."

Two Dominican soldiers were killed on the Dominican border at Dajabon on Saturday and their weapons were taken from them. It was unclear who was responsible for the killings but Chamblain reportedly led a commando of 20 men across the border.

Dominican President Hipolito Mejia said Sunday that authorities would arrest any Haitian trying to enter the Dominican Republic suspected of taking part in the uprising.

Meanwhile in Jamaica, police detained 10 Haitians, including eight police officers, who arrived Saturday by boat on the eastern shore requesting asylum. Police seized eight guns and ammunition. Immigration authorities were reviewing their asylum requests.

As the suspense built with the revolt in the north, more than 1,000 anti-government demonstrators held a peaceful march on Sunday.

Shouting "Down with Aristide!" members of a broad opposition alliance known as the Democratic Platform massed for the demonstration in Port-au-Prince, saying they didn't support violence but shared the same goal as the rebels - ousting the embattled president.

Demonstrators ended the peaceful protest march when police told them they would have to change the route because of security concerns.

While there has been no reported rise in the numbers of Haitians leaving for U.S. shores, Aristide's wife - U.S.-born Mildred Trouillot Aristide - reportedly flew to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. over the weekend. Haitian presidential spokeswoman Michelle Karshan said the first lady left to attend a funeral and would return Monday.

In another twist, the 13-year-old grandson of Mrs. Aristide's aunt and former Social Affairs Minister Mathilde Flambert was reportedly kidnapped on Friday but released over the weekend, friends of the family told The Associated Press. It was unclear who abducted the boy.

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.

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.

Opposition politicians refuse to participate in new elections unless Aristide steps down, and the rebels say they will lay down their weapons only when he is ousted.