PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Rebels occupied the national police headquarters but kept away from the U.S.-guarded presidential palace after their convoy entered the capital Monday to the cheers of thousands celebrating the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (search).
Dozens of insurgents packing an eclectic array of weapons dating to World War II (search) swaggered around a posh hotel where rebel leader Guy Philippe (search) met with members of the political coalition that opposed Aristide. He was joined by rebel commander Louis-Jodel Chamblain (search), who is a former army death squad leader and a convicted assassin.
With U.S. military forces on the ground and more on the way, Aristide told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that he was "forced to leave" Haiti by U.S. military forces. He added that they would "start shooting and be killing" if he refused, but it was unclear if he was referring to rebels or U.S. agents.
Aristide was put in contact with The Associated Press by the Rev. Jesse Jackson on Monday following a news conference in Atlanta, where the civil rights leader called on Congress to investigate Aristide's ouster.
U.S. officials called the allegation -- repeated earlier by other U.S. critics who said they were called by Aristide -- "nonsense" and "absurd."
Philippe said he planned to make preparations for the new president, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre, to assume office, as called for in the constitution.
"We are waiting for the order from the president to know what we're going to do," he said. "The country has a good start... People can be secure. They're not alone."
His convoy of some 70 rebels was greeted by thousands of Haitians, many shouting "Liberty!" and "Aristide is gone!" as the militants entered the city, then rolled into the plaza near the National Palace.
But a half dozen U.S. Marines guarded the palace and the rebels did not approach. Philippe has said that he has no political aspirations but wants reinstituted the Haitian army that ousted Aristide in 1991 and that Aristide disbanded in 1995.
In the capital, there were reports of reprisal killings of militant Aristide supporters accused of terrorizing people. An AP reporter saw four bodies at Carrefour, on the outskirts of the capital, three of them with hands tied behind their backs and shot in the head execution-style.
The fourth body was that of a man allegedly shot by police, said witness Charlie LaPlanche. "He ran out of the (police) pickup truck and then it became a manhunt. He went into a house. They found him. And then they took him out and executed him," he said.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said U.S. forces "will have a lead role" initially in restoring order to Haiti following the three-week rebellion that swept Aristide from power. The U.N. Security Council late Sunday approved the deployment of a multinational force to Haiti.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 U.S. troops would go to Haiti for a "relatively short period." They would participate in an interim force, which could include as many as 5,000 troops from several countries, that would stay until replaced by a U.N. peacekeeping force.
There were no clashes between the rebel force and the U.S. and French troops, who were establishing security at diplomatic missions and other sites. Philippe earlier said he welcomed the peacekeepers.
Powell said he did not want certain rebel leaders to take any role in a new government. Philippe was an officer in the army when it repressed dissident politicians.
"Some of these individuals we would not want to see re-enter civil society in Haiti because of their past records, and this is something we will have to work through," Powell said.
Amnesty International called for international peacekeepers to arrest Chamblain and Jean Pierre Baptiste, also a rebel, who escaped from jail after being convicted in the 1994 massacre of 15 Aristide supporters.
As Aristide spent his first day in exile, his home in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Tabarre was looted and trashed. Pictures, documents and a grand piano were dragged out onto the courtyard of the three-story villa, then abandoned.
Family and school pictures lay among the disorder. Broken plates littered the area by the pool. Books strewn about included several written by Aristide and one about Marcus Garvey, a black nationalist leader from Jamaica.
Not everyone was happy to see the rebels in the capital. Some residents watched indifferently, their arms folded, as their convoy passed. At one point, the convoy stopped and rebels jumped out, sweeping their weapons from side to side, then moved on.
Philippe, formerly a provincial police chief and an officer in the army when it repressed dissident politicians, first went to the national police headquarters.
Many of the rebels then settled into the nearby former headquarters of the army. The rebels, many of them former soldiers, have said they want to reconstitute the army.
"It's symbolic. It's the headquarters of the army," said Paul Arcelin, a midlevel rebel commander.
There, Chamblain denied in an interview that he had murdered anyone.
"I'm not a terrorist, and I'm not a criminal," he said, adding: "The bones of my so-called victims -- where are they?"
Among those at the hotel meeting with the rebel leader was Evans Paul, a former mayor of Port-au-Prince and a top opposition figure. Paul said Philippe "has played an important role."
Industrialist Charles Henry Baker, an opposition leader, said Philippe offered his troops to help maintain order amid reports of continued looting in the capital. Baker said his group welcomed the offer.
One young rebel standing outside the meeting freely told a reporter he shot people and predicted militant members of Aristide's Lavalas party would be executed.
"I shot some looters yesterday. They have to be shot," the rebel who goes by the nom-de-guerre "Faustin," said as he stood outside the meeting in a black flak vest, cradling an M-4 assault rifle.
"There are some very minimal numbers of Lavalas who cannot be saved," he said, adding that the vast majority would be spared.
Col. David Berger, head of the U.S. Marine contingent, said 150 Marines had arrived overnight from 8th Battalion, based in Camp Lejeune, N.C., to "secure key sites in the capital."
"People who interfere with that mission, we will handle with appropriate force," Berger told AP.
At the airport, U.S. and French military commanders huddled over a map of Port-au-Prince as a French military attache pointed out locations where armed pro-Aristide militants have been known to gather.
U.S. Marines set up a security perimeter at the airport, kneeling in the grass as about 80 French Marines arrived in C-160 transport planes. The French Marines' supplies included crates of bottled Evian water.
An AP reporter traveled with the rebels, including Philippe, when their convoy set out before dawn from Gonaives. In St. Marc, a town which had been contested during the uprising, the convoy passed three charred bodies on the road.