U.N. Troops Increase Patrols After Gangs Kill 22 in Haiti

U.N. troops increased patrols in a volatile Haitian slum Saturday, a day after heavily armed gangsters killed at least 22 people, torched houses and forced residents to flee in the worst outbreak of violence in months.

A 26-year-old man was wounded by gunfire Saturday, residents said, in a second day of shooting in the Martissant slum in southwestern Port-au-Prince, where rival gangs have waged frequent gunbattles in a fight for control of the area.

A recent spate of killings and kidnappings have gripped Haiti's tense capital, interrupting relatively calm conditions since the Feb. 7 election of President Rene Preval.

CountryWatch: Haiti

The violence has raised fears of a resurgence of lawlessness that engulfed the poor Caribbean nation after a February 2004 revolt that toppled then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Friday's attack began when gang members from the nearby area of Grand Ravine stormed Martissant before dawn, breaking into homes and shooting people inside, residents said. The attackers set fire to several homes before fleeing.

The killings prompted many people, fearful of more attacks, to pack up their belongings and leave.

"I left because of the war," said 26-year-old Elizabeth Cherie. "You can just be walking through the street and get shot."

At the city morgue, grieving relatives sought to identify the bodies of 22 victims, many shot in the head.

Among the dead were four women and a young boy, half his face torn off by a bullet.

Jean Silvio Estrivil, 42, came to identify the body of his 32-year-old cousin and her husband, who were shot inside their home.

"I have no idea why it happened. Only God and the person who did it know that," Estrivil said outside the morgue.

It's unclear if the recent violence was politically motivated. After the 2004 revolt, hundreds died in clashes between street gangs loyal and opposed to Aristide, who is in exile in South Africa.

In Martissant, jittery residents emerged from their homes Saturday as blue-helmeted Sri Lankan peacekeepers patrolled rutted, trash-strewn streets on foot.

The United Nations said in statement Friday that it would remain in the area to prevent attacks, but residents said the troops have done little to curb the violence.

"People are dying in front of them everyday," said Woody Jean, 28, on a street corner where residents erected a roadblock of rocks and debris to keep out intruders.

U.N. officials could not immediately be reached.