PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers raided Haiti's largest slum Friday to arrest gang members and take control of the area — sparking a gunbattle that wounded at least two soldiers, the top U.N. commander said. Witnesses said at least one man was killed.
More than 500 blue-helmeted troops in armored vehicles entered the seaside slum of Cite Soleil before dawn and tried to seize several abandoned buildings that had been used by gangs to stage attacks, said Maj. Gen. Carlos Alberto Dos Santos Cruz, the Brazilian commander of the 9,000-strong international force.
Dos Santos, speaking from Cite Soleil even as gunfire continued to echo through the streets, said gang members shot thousands of rounds at peacekeepers, wounding two. Peacekeeper returned fire, but Dos Santos said he did not know if there were any casualties among gang members or civilians in the densely populated slum of 300,000 people.
"We had a raid to try to arrest the criminals and recover their weapons they have inside this place," Dos Santos told reporters.
Associated Press journalists saw the blood-spattered body of a young man in a street. Witnesses said he was walking through the area when he was hit by gunfire, but it was not clear who shot him and his identity was unknown. Residents later moved the body inside a building.
Friday's raid was one of the biggest in months by peacekeepers, who were sent to the troubled Caribbean country more than two years ago to quell violence in the chaotic of a 2004 revolt that toppled former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
On Dec. 22, U.N. troops raided another part of Cite Soleil to break up a kidnapping gang. The U.N. said six suspected gang members were killed, although slum dwellers said 10 people died and that all were civilians.
Dos Santos said most of the fighting was happening in the Boston section of Cite Soleil, which is controlled by a notorious street gang led by a shadowy figure known only as "Evens."
He said peacekeepers made no arrests nor recovered any weapons.