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Nine Aristide supporters are gassed, gunned down


SARTRES, Haiti -- Plainclothes gunmen killed at least nine supporters of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in a midnight ambush using tear gas to flush them out of a house and then shooting them as they ran, neighbors said yesterday.

Independent Radio Tropic reported that a larger number of men -- as many as 12 -- died in the attack and said some of their bodies were on the streets yesterday morning before being taken away, presumably to morgues.

The incident, which took place about midnight Wednesday, is a bloody reminder of the systematic repression that continues against Aristide loyalists.

Men identified by local residents as police auxiliaries, or attaches, initially told reporters that the victims were a group of thieves. But neighbors said they were Aristide supporters who had fled the Cite Soleil slum across town after receiving death threats from local security forces.

"The truth is very simple. The men were [Aristide] supporters, and that's why they were murdered," said one neighbor, after meeting reporters several blocks away and driving with them to a secluded place. He said a man had already been arrested by attaches for talking to strangers about the incident.

"Nobody slept at all last night. We all lay on the floor, terrified," the neighbor said.

Neighbors said the house, located in a cul-de-sac in a poor quarter just a few miles from the international airport, had served as a hiding place for 30 men wanted by security forces for holding meetings in Cite Soleil and telling people they should prepare for the imminent return of President Aristide, who was driven from power in a 1991 military coup.

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