December 18, 2001

Haiti leaders regain control after coup attempt

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) --Street life in Haiti returned to normal Tuesday,
with shops and banks open, and roadblocks cleared from streets a day after the
beleaguered government staved off an apparent coup attempt.

Police recaptured the presidential mansion from armed men in a day of violence that
left at least seven people dead Monday. On Tuesday, authorities said they were
searching for dozens of conspirators who escaped.

"We know they are trying to penetrate the border and cross into the Dominican
Republic," said Edwin Paraison, Haitian consul in the southwestern Dominican town
of Barahona.

Monday's attempt prompted revenge attacks by supporters of President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who took to the streets with machetes and torched the
homes and offices of opposition leaders.

Police said 33 men stormed the palace in the hours before dawn Monday, killing two
police officers and later two passers-by as some of them fled. Three other people,
including one of the attackers, died as violence spread.

Dominican authorities on Tuesday were assisting in the search for suspects after
Haitian police found what they said was one of three pickup trucks used by the
attackers abandoned near the border in southeastern Haiti, Paraison said.

Hours after the attack, Aristide appeared in public to speak at the palace.

"We have thwarted the coup, but it's not all over," he said in Monday's speech. "The
Haitian people will not have to live in hiding ever again."

Border closing

At the time of the attack on the National Palace, the president and his family were at
their home in suburban Tabarre, three miles (five kilometers) away, said palace
spokesman Jacques Maurice. Aristide's office is in the downtown National Palace.

Haiti's border with Dominican Republic was closed, but Port-au-Prince's airport
reopened Tuesday after Monday's flights were canceled. American Airlines resumed
regular flights Tuesday.

Police arrested one wounded and heavily armed man Monday in the pickup truck
found on a road to the neighboring Dominican Republic, police spokesman
Jean-Dady Simeon said.

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that in radio
transmissions the attackers identified their leader as the former police chief of
northern Cap-Haitien city, Guy Philippe, who fled to Dominican Republic last year
with seven police officers accused of plotting a coup.

But Philippe, reached by The Associated Press in the Dominican Republic, denied
involvement, saying the attack "was a staged event to give a pretext for attacking the

Paraison said Philippe has been in Santo Domingo for three months and that
"intelligence sources in Haiti have assured us he had some kind of involvement in
planning the attack."

The Haitian consul said his government would present any proof of Philippe's
involvement to Dominican authorities, though the two neighboring countries have no
extradition accord.

Aristide became Haiti's first democratically elected president in 1990 but was ousted
by the army just eight months later.

He was restored to power in 1994 by U.S. troops. When a term limit forced him to
step down in 1996, he was replaced by his protege, Rene Preval. Aristide began his
second term in February.

Palace attack

On Monday, Aristide urged an end to the violence. But his followers took to the
streets anyway after the attack, setting ablaze the headquarters of the Convergence
opposition alliance, three buildings belonging to opposition parties, and the homes of
three opposition leaders.

The palace attack began about 2 a.m. Monday when the armed men lobbed a
grenade at the National Palace and opened fire as they entered, Maurice said. Two
police officers were killed and six were injured, he said.

The attackers ended up taking one wing of the palace, Paraison said.

By midmorning Monday, police had regained control of the palace, shooting and
killing one gunman. He, like others in the group, was dressed in the camouflage
fatigues of Haiti's former army, which Aristide disbanded in 1995.

Paraison says Haitian intelligence has determined all the conspirators were former
policemen or soldiers.

Since Aristide's Lavalas Family party swept parliamentary and local elections in May
2000, Haiti has been mired in unrest, with the opposition calling the elections
fraudulent and foreign donors refusing to release hundreds of millions of dollars in
aid until results are revised.

There also has been mounting grass-roots opposition to Aristide within his party.
Protesters accuse Aristide of failing to deliver on promises of basic services like
sanitation and electricity.

 Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.