Colombian mercenaries detained for allegedly taking part in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise say they were hired to capture him and hand him over to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, Colombia’s police said on Thursday.
Colombian intelligence agents are cooperating with Haitian authorities in investigating the July 7 murder of Moise.
Two Americans of Haitian descent and 26 Colombians took part in the operation at the president’s home in Port-au-Prince in which Moise’s wife Martine was shot and wounded.
Colombia’s police chief Jorge Vargas said the captured Colombians claim that the initial idea was “to plan the arrest of the president and make him available … to the DEA.”
Vargas said the commando unit was split into two groups: one made up of seven men carried out the attack on Moise’s home where “the alleged arrest didn’t happen but rather the president was killed.” The second group provided support.
Responding to the attack, Haitian armed forces killed three Colombians and detained another 18 they believed to be involved.
Vargas suggested that many of the Colombians could have been duped into taking part in what they believed to be a capture operation while only a few knew the true aim of the mission.
He said former soldiers Duberney Capador, who was killed, and German Rivera, who is under arrest, were in charge and had told the other Colombians the mission was an “arrest operation.”
Investigators have yet to establish whether the rest of the commando unit was ever informed of the true aim of the mission.
“There was a large number (of Colombians) that were taken there for a supposed protection mission, but within the group there was a smaller one that apparently had a detailed knowledge that it would be a criminal operation,” Colombia President Ivan Duque told La FM radio station.
Vargas said Capador and Rivera traveled to the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, in May and then crossed the border where they each made contact with more than 10 people.
The mercenaries were contracted by Miami-based Venezuelan security firm CTU.
Haitian police said on Thursday they had detained Moise’s chief bodyguard and three members of his security detail that all survived the attack unscathed.
The police said the plot was planned in the Dominican Republic.
A Florida-based Haitian named Christian Emmanuel Sanon and James Solages, a Haitian-American, are alleged to have met with former Haitian opposition senator Joel John Joseph, who is wanted by police, in a hotel in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas and torn apart by gangs imposing control over the nation of 11 million due to the lack of functioning government institutions.
Moise had come under fire for a leadership style that critics called authoritarian.