The New York Times
February 9, 2004

Uprising Against Aristide Spreads in Haiti


ST. MARC, Haiti (AP) -- Rebels blocked streets and hundreds of Haitians looted shops in this port town as an uprising raged in several communities against President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Using felled trees, flaming tires and car chassis, residents blocked streets throughout St. Marc on Sunday, a day after militants drove out police in gunbattles that killed
two people. Many residents have formed neighborhood groups to back insurgents in their push to expel the president.

"After Aristide leaves, the country will return to normal,'' said Axel Philippe, 34, among dozens massed on the highway leading to St. Marc, a city of about 100,000
located some 45 miles northwest of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

At least 18 people have been killed since armed opponents of Aristide began their assault Thursday, setting police stations on fire and driving officers from the
northwestern city of Gonaives -- Haiti's fourth-largest city -- and several smaller nearby towns.

Anger has been brewing in Haiti since Aristide's party won flawed legislative elections in 2000. The opposition refuses to join in any new vote unless the president
resigns; he insists on serving out his term, which ends in 2006.

Clashes between government opponents, police and Aristide supporters have killed at least 69 people since mid-September.

In the bloodiest fights of recent days, 150 police tried to retake control of Gonaives on Saturday but left hours later after meeting fierce resistance, witnesses said. At
least nine people were killed, seven of them police, in gunbattles with rebels hiding on side streets and crouched in doorways.

Crowds mutilated and beat the corpses of three police officers. One body was dragged through the street as a man swung at it with a machete, and a woman cut off the
officer's ear. Another policeman was lynched and stripped to his shorts, and residents dropped large rocks on his body.

Haitian radio stations reported claims by other rebels that as many as 14 police were killed in Gonaives on Saturday, but that couldn't be confirmed.

Before dawn Sunday, arsonists burned down a two-story building in northern Cap-Haitien housing the studio of Radio Vision 2000, the independent Haitian broadcaster

Rebels continued to rule the streets of Gonaives on Sunday, witnesses said, though it was unclear how many armed militants were in the city of 200,000.

Calling the violence acts of terrorism, the government has vowed to regain control of the area, but it was unclear when police planned to return.

Police have deserted at least six other nearby towns, including Ennery, Gros Morne, L'Estere, Anse Rouge, Petite Riviere de l'Artibonite and Trou du Nord, according to
the Haitian Press Network, a local news service.

Attackers set fire to the police stations of Gonaives, St. Marc and Trou du Nord.

One 22-year-old bystander in St. Marc, David Saint-Louis, was wounded by a gunshot in the chest Sunday and said it was a police officer -- in civilian clothing but
wearing a badge -- who fired at him near a barricade.

A number of people in both Gonaives and St. Marc said they formed neighborhood committees to aid the militants and keep watch over their areas.

The recent violence started Thursday when members of the Gonaives Resistance Front, took control of the Gonaives police station during a five-hour gunbattle. They set fire to buildings -- including the mayor's house -- and freed more than 100 prisoners from the city jail. Those clashes left at least seven dead and 20 injured.

The Gonaives Resistance Front used to be allied with Aristide. But it turned against him last year and changed its name from the ``Cannibal Army,'' accusing the
government of killing its leader Amiot Metayer to keep him from releasing damaging information about Aristide. The government denies it.