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Dignitaries rush to cover as protests flare at Haiti president's funeral

A U.S. delegation and other dignitaries were hurried to vehicles as reports emerged of shots fired and crowd control gas used on protesters outside the funeral of late Haitian president Jovenel Moise on Friday.

Dignitaries rush to cover as protests flare at Haiti president's funeral

Pallbearers in military attire salute next to a coffin holding the body of late Haitian President Jovenel Moise after he was shot dead at his home in Port-au-Prince earlier this month, in Cap-Haitien, July 23, 2021. REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo

CAP-HAITIEN, Haiti: A US delegation and other dignitaries were hurried to vehicles as reports emerged of shots fired and crowd control gas used on protesters outside the funeral of late Haitian president Jovenel Moise on Friday (Jul 23).

The US delegation is "safe", the White House said afterwards. 

"The presidential delegation is safe and accounted for in light of the reported shootings outside of the funeral," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

"We are deeply concerned about unrest in Haiti."

The delegation to the funeral, which was led by US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, is returning home slightly earlier than originally expected due to the security concern, according to a source familiar with the situation.

"The Haitian people deserve democracy, stability, security, and prosperity, and we stand with them in this time of crisis," Thomas-Greenfield said on Twitter, adding that they discussed matters with the Haitian leadership. "We urge everyone to express themselves peacefully and refrain from violence."

READ: Haiti prepares to bury its slain president

READ: Haiti's new prime minister to be sworn in, form government

Reuters witnesses smelled the gas and heard detonations they believed to be shots. There were no immediate reports of injuries among protesters or authorities, and no indications any guests at the funeral were in danger.

A brass band and church choir opened Moise's ceremony minutes earlier as his wife looked on, two weeks after a still-unexplained assassination at their home by foreign mercenaries.

The service was punctuated by angry shouts of protest by supporters accusing authorities of responsibility for Moise's death, their words sometimes drowned out by loud swells of taped somber church music.

US President Joe Biden's ambassador to the United Nations led the US delegation at Cap-Haitien to pay respects to Moise, joining mourners who have taken part in a series of commemorations in Haiti this week.

Haitian officials arriving at the event met with protesters' verbal anger, with one man calling police chief Leon Charles "a criminal."

"Why do you have all this security, where were the police on the day of the president's assassination?" one protester said.

Inside the auditorium where the Roman Catholic funeral was held, four pallbearers in military attire solemnly stood by the closed wooden casket. It was draped with a Haitian flag and set on a dais garlanded with white flowers.

Source: Reuters

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