American forces gird for reprisals 'Top thugs' held after raids on Haitian militia

October 04, 1994|By Gilbert Lewthwaite | Gilbert Lewthwaite,Sun Staff Correspondent

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- U.S. troops went on increased alert yesterday for fear of violent reprisals after they raided a series of paramilitary strongholds, arresting dozens of illegal militia members and seizing a variety of arms.

"As of now, we don't intend to stop," said Lt. Gen. Hugh Shelton, commander of the 20,000-strong intervention force. "We intend to pursue the violent cadres off the streets and take their arms."

Another U.S. official involved in handling the operation said: "It means increasing danger from snipers, from grenades. The more pressure we put on them, the more likely they are to resort to such things.

"Before, there was no percentage for them in hitting an American, killing an American, because they had too much to lose. Now they have virtually lost everything. They literally have nothing to lose any more."

In raids over the past 48 hours, General Shelton said, U.S. troops had detained four of Haiti's "top thugs/attaches/ninja chiefs" and many accomplices. One of those arrested was believed to be connected with the grenade attack that killed five pro-democracy demonstrators and injured 62 last week, said the general, who did not name the suspect.

Among the four now in detention is Romeo Haloun, head of the "Black Ninjas," the personal security force for Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, leader of Haiti's military junta. Mr. Haloun, a U.S. citizen, could face extradition to the United States.

"He is the big fish," said a U.S. diplomat here, asking not to be named.

Also detained is Gerry Mourra, a prominent Haitian businessman, accused of being an arms supplier to the paramilitaries. He and the other arrested Haitians will be held until they can be handed over to the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

In a separate incident, a U.S. soldier was shot in the stomach by Haitians in Les Cayes, the third-largest town in Haiti. The soldier was shot Sunday night while on his way, alone, to the lavatory in his compound. He was transferred to a military hospital here and his prospects of recovery were said to be "very good" yesterday.

Among other developments yesterday as U.S. troops tightened their control on Haiti:

* The first detachment of 150 members of the international force that will help police this country arrived;

* The first international police monitors, led by former New York police Commissioner Joseph Kelly were deployed with Haitian police patrols. They will monitor the performance of the Haitian officers, and recommend those that should be retained in the new nonmilitary police force that will be created.

"Haiti doesn't have a police force in the classic sense," said Mr. Kelly. "It is part of the army. They have not received formalized police training."

As the new elements of the international presence arrived, General Shelton announced that the total intervention force would be reduced from its current level of 20,000 to about 15,500. In the first drawdown, 1,800 Marines left Cap-Haitien yesterday, leaving security in the city to members of the 10th Mountain Division and military police.

In the most dramatic move toward disarming the forces who have terrorized this nation for the past three years, U.S. troops, backed by light tanks, seized control of the headquarters of the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti and three other buildings in the capital.

Cheered on by hundreds of Haitians chanting, "We love you! We love you!" the soldiers met no resistance, arrested 40 members of the organization, and seized several caches of arms, including shotguns, rifles, grenade launchers, hand grenades and explosives.

After the raiding party left, scores of Haitians rushed into the building and ransacked it, throwing anything that could be PTC moved into the Rue de Champs du Mars. They smashed furniture and beat on mattresses, water bottles, refrigerators, telephones -- anything associated with the FRAPH, which is the political arm of Haiti's army and also a paramilitary force. One man turned his anger on a stapler, repeatedly throwing it to the ground. They also trashed a neighboring bar and restaurant used by the paramilitaries.

Finally, a small military patrol returned and took up positions near the FRAPH headquarters. Ten Haitian policemen were arrested for showing "hostile intent" but were later returned to their barracks. As they were driven away, Capt. J. B. Shattuck said: "If we released them here, the crowd would tear them apart. It is for their safety and ours."

Of the raid on FRAPH headquarters, chief source of the violence which disrupted a peaceful pro-democracy march on Friday, Captain Shattuck said: "My orders are to go in, seize what they have got. We have seized all the weapons, equipment, documents and people we found inside."

General Shelton, briefing reporters before the raids began, said: "We will move against each organization that demonstrates that type of [terrorist] activity."

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