PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – A heavily armed group of foreign nationals who were arrested in Haiti Sunday after days of massive anti-government protests were handed over to U.S. authorities on Wednesday, Haitian and U.S. authorities said.
FILE PHOTO – A man rides a bike in front of a major Haitian police station, where, according to local media, a group of foreign nationals including Americans armed with semi-automatic weapons were detained after the anti-government protests in Port- au-Prince, Haiti, February 18, 2019. REUTERS / Ivan Alvarado
It was unclear if all the members of the group, which reportedly included five Americans, a Serb and a Russian, were flown to the United States.
"The return of the individuals to the U.S. was coordinated with the Haitian authorities, "a State Department representative for Western Hemisphere Affairs said in an e-mailed statement, without further details.
A spokesman for the Haitian Justice Ministry also confirmed that the individuals were "handed over to U.S. authorities this Wednesday. "
Media reports said that at the time of their arrest, the men were armed with semi-automatic weapons, rifles, pistols, drones and satellite phones in their two vehicles.
Videos circulating on social media allegedly show that at least six men are escorted through the airport in Port-au-Prince to a plane bound for the United States.
Since the arrest, the Haitian newspapers have printed names that correspond to social media profiles of U.S. citizens claiming military backgrounds. However, Reuters could not independently confirm the identities of the arrested men.
Thousands of demonstrators called for President Jovenel Moise to resign and for an independent probe into the location of funds from the PetroCaribe agreement, an alliance between the Caribbean countries and OPEC member Venezuela.
Protests that began on Feb. 7 dead after after a week-and-a-half but the opposition leaders have called for Haitians to take it to the streets again on Friday.
The State Department last week ordered non-emergency U.S. staff and their families to leave Haiti and advised U.S. citizens not to travel there.
Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Paul Tait