© Reuters. Colombian Director General of the National Police, Jorge Luis Vargas, speaks during a press conference about the involvement of several Colombians in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise in Bogota, Colombia, July 15, 2021. REUTERS / Luisa Gonzalez
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Many of the Colombian ex-soldiers charged with involvement in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise went to Haiti to work as bodyguards, but others knew a crime was planned, said the Colombian President on Thursday.
Haitian authorities said Moise was shot dead in his home on July 7 by a group of assassins including 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans. Eighteen Colombians were arrested and three others were killed by police.
“There was a large group that was put on an alleged protection mission, but within that group there is a smaller group that apparently had detailed knowledge of a criminal operation,” Colombian President Ivan Duque told La FM Radio.
“Does that excuse the rest of the group? Unfortunately no, because they are also involved in the situation.”
The Colombian news magazine Semana reported on Wednesday that one of the detained Colombians confessed to Haitian authorities that seven of his compatriots were involved in the Moise murder. Reuters was unable to independently verify the report.
Families and colleagues of some of the detainees have told journalists in Colombia that the suspects have been employed as bodyguards and are innocent.
The head of the Colombian National Police stressed on Thursday that the Haitian authorities are leading the investigation.
A “small number” of the detainees have received US military training in the past while serving as active members of the Colombian military, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Ken Hoffman said Thursday. He did not provide any further details.
One of the strongest U.S. military partners in Latin America, Colombia receives billions of dollars in security assistance and training focused on fighting Marxist guerrilla groups funded through drug trafficking, extortion, and kidnappings.
A US government source said a Senate committee is examining the US military’s training of some Colombians arrested on suspicion of Moise’s murder.
The assassination has thrown into chaos the already troubled Caribbean nation that has occurred in recent months amid a surge in gang violence that has displaced thousands and hampered economic activity in America’s poorest country.
The New York Times reported Thursday that the presidential palace security chief Dimitri Herard had been arrested and was being asked why the attackers had not met more resistance in the president’s house.
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