Details on the attempted coup d'etat attack on Haiti's National Palace on December 17, 2001
COMPILATION OF PUBLIC INFORMATION THAT WAS RELEASED THROUGH NATIONAL
TELEVISION, THE POLICE SPOKESPERSON, AGENCE HAITIENNE PRESSE, ASSOCIATED
PRESS & HAITI PRESS NETWORK
On December 17, 2001 at 2 am, using the element of surprise, three (3) pickup trucks carrying approximately 30 commandos approached the entryway known as Westgate of the National Palace (which is directly across from ministry offices) and launched a grenade into the entryway before storming the gate and invading the National Palace grounds through the right hand side. The iron gate was damaged from the impact.
The National Palace security personnel were forced to retreat for cover in face of the heavy weapons used by the commandos including an M2 with M50 caliber weapon, which is a ground to air weapon, which was prominently bolted onto one of the vehicles on a bi-pod. Through the M2 was draped a large quantity of M50 caliber linked missile-like projectile ammunition, each which are approximately 5 inches long. An M2 with M50 caliber bullets can reach a radius of 25 kilometers.
Haiti's security units do not have weapons of this magnitude and the overwhelming majority of Haitiâ€™s security forces have never seen weapons of this type or witnessed its sound or impact.
Some of the National Palace security took cover and worked together to plan their strategy for an offensive.
When the vehicles entered the National Palace grounds they started shooting at the National Palace building causing large holes of approximately 2 inches deep in the side wall of the National Palace.
The commandos were wearing green camouflage military clothes identical to the uniforms worn by the Leopard unit of the former Haitian military. There was very heavy shooting and exchange of fire between the commandos and the palace security personnel.
Some of the commandos shot at the glass doors that enter into the reception area of the National Palace and shot at the official framed photograph of President Aristide, which hung on the wall behind the reception desk. They tore off the door on the wooden cabinet where visitors' cards of identification are stored.
They tried to break into some of the rooms on the ground floor, which in the past under the former military may have been used as weapons' depots. The rooms on the ground floor are covered with metal doors, which are closed with large padlocks. Two administrative offices were entered after the commandos shot off the padlocks and shot up the glass doors leading into the rooms.
The commandos did attempt to open another room they believed to house ammunition but several padlocks protected it. Although they shot a hole through one of the padlocks, they were not successful in opening the door.
The commandos went up to the second and third floors of the National Palace, shooting at an office used by a US-based private security firm contracted by the National Palace to provide security to the President and the First Lady, taking certain materials from their security office. The commandos entered the President's office stealing his laptop and briefcase. The briefcase was later retrieved on the Palace grounds after the commandos were forced out.
The commandos took a walkie-talkie from a National Palace security personnel and delivered their message, which was heard by the more than one hundred security personnel who are on that frequency. The commandos stated that this was a mission of the former army and they claimed to be aligned with Guy Phillip and said that he was the head of their mission. They stated that the president was no longer the president. They also advised that anyone coming into the palace that didn't come to support them would be shot.
A strategy was put into place by several of Haiti's security units of the National Palace and Haiti's National Police to enter and dislodge the invaders.
The Unite de Securite du Palais National (USGPN), the Presidential Security Unit (PSU), (who are equivalent to the US secret service, the National Palace Combat Anti-Terrorism Team (CAT) and Haiti's National Police SWAT team started an assault upon the assailants' positions by entering through the rear via the Caserne Dessalines barracks which is used for administrative, training and housing of the USGPN.
When they reached the fence that divides the Caserne and the National Palace grounds, they were able to shoot one of the commandos who was in the rear of the ground floor of the National Palace building. He was struck in the head and died. This man had papers in his pocket identifying him as a Dominican national by the name of Perez. It was later learned that he is Chavre Milot, a former Haitian military. He also had $1,000 US dollars in his pocket and no other currency, as well as papers with names on them, which are now being pursued in the investigation into this event. Mandates (warrants) for arrests for questioning and for searching premises have been issued and acted on as a result.
Intense fire was registered in a heavy exchange of gunfire and finally the commandos capitulated by mounting their vehicles and leaving the National Palace grounds by the same west gate they had entered. They shot their way out and were shooting into the streets as they took off and drove toward Avenue John Brown.
Meanwhile at approximately 5:30 am a helicopter on contract to Haiti's National Police lifted off when day breaks from the domestic airfield, which is, located near the departmental police headquarters and near Haiti's international airport.
6AM: The vehicles which shot their way out of the National Palace sped through the streets making their way up Avenue John Brown (Lalue) and turned left on Nason and took airport road en route to 15 Octobre, the street that President Aristide has his personal residence on. This was in fact where the President and his family were sleeping that night.
Learning of the attack, thousands of people took to the streets throughout the country and thousands arrive at the National Palace to show their solidarity with President Aristide and wait for his arrival at the National
Palace that day. The people chanted that they would not accept a coup d'tat and that they wanted their democratic vote respected.
The helicopter was in pursuit of the vehicles and notified the ground forces of the route the commandos were taking.
Security units set up a roadblock at the intersection before the President's home and waited for the commandos to arrive.
An exchange of fire between the presidential security units and the commandos ensued. One of the security was hit by gunfire (he is on of the 3 that have since been transported to Cuba for medical intervention).
The commandos continued driving toward the road to Malpasse, which is the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Local authorities were contacted to advise the population to make roadblocks to stop the commando's vehicles from continuing to the border.
The helicopter landed in Fond Paraisien, which is en route to the border and advised the population that they should make a roadblock with whatever they could find.
When the commandos reached Fond Paraisien they found it blocked and turned back towards Gaunthier. Near the cemetery of Gauthier, they made a turn towards Thomazeau. The helicopter was still following them.
The helicopter advises the ground forces who had telephoned ahead to the local authorities in the towns along that road asking that the people built barricades with rocks, sticks, or whatever they could find.
The commandos shot at the crowds along the way and shot at people at the roadblocks that they came across en route wounding pedestrians and killing one at one of the barricades.
Over Thomazeau the helicopter experienced fuel pressure problems and alerted the ground forces that they had to head back to the airfield to check the helicopter.
Back at the airfield the fuel pressure was checked and the helicopter departed again trying to locate the commandos. The helicopter located ground forces.
Because of the heavy exchange of fire with local police en route, the white pickup became disabled and the commandos had to abandon it. Some mounted the blue pickup truck while others scattered fleeing to the wooded area of Thomazeau.
The police retrieved the white pickup truck.
The other vehicle reached Morne Cabrit, which has an extremely rugged road that brings one to the Central Plateau where one can reach the border from.
The helicopter paralyzed the blue pickup.
Realizing that they could not move, the commandos jumped out of their vehicle and ran to a cavern cut out of the mountain (for the purpose of excavating sand to be mixed with cement).
They stripped off their army camouflage uniforms and left them and their weapons in the cavern. They exited the cavern in civilian clothes although one of them had no shirt on at all. They scattered up the mountain.
The helicopter alerted ground forces to meet the copter up the road and then advised them of where the vehicle was and to search the cavern.
When the SWAT team searched the cavern they found approximately 15 weapons including Galil , M16s Far (Belgium made), and a grenade launcher M79. Four of the Galils were later identified by their serial numbers to be weapons stolen from the Police Academy during the July 28, 2001 attack there in which police were also killed. Also found in the cavern were the camouflage military uniforms, vests saturated with perspiration, pants saturated with perspiration.
Police made contact with local authorities in various localities asking them to stay alert and advise of strangers in their area. Local authorities in Lascahobas and Mirebalais decided to mobilize and remain vigilant to work with the police.
In the town of Terre Rouje residents spotted and detained a man they believed to be one of the commandos because he had gunshot wounds. The population handed him over to the police who later transported him to the capital for questioning. This man has been identified as Pierre Richardson, a former Haitian military, who had $800 US dollars in his pocket and a letter issued by the police in Santo Domingo advising that he could operate freely in the Dominican Republic. Images of commando Richardson in custody while in Terre Rouje were shown on National Television.
A few days later residents in Thomazeau later apprehended four men believed to be commandos because of their bullet wounds and killed them.
The disabled vehicle, a Toyota double cabin pickup, which had the M2, mounted on it was seized by the police.
A police investigation, which traced the license plates of the vehicle, revealed that it had been rented from a rental company in Port-au-Prince eight days prior. Through the investigation the police ascertained the name
of the man who rented the vehicle and determined that he had not reported the vehicle stolen.
The causalities reported by the Police spokesperson as of December 19th were:
5 dead commandos (1 shot by security units when they retook the National Palace, 4 killed by population in Thomazeau)
6 injured (3 were transported to Cuba for medical attention that is not available in Haiti)
The police are continuing their investigation into who the authors, actors and accomplices are.
Guy Phillipe, a former Haitian military and more recently the former police chief of Cap Haitien in Haiti, who fled Haiti last year after allegations of involvement in plotting a coup d'etat, was arrested in Ecuador and held for deportation to Panama, the country from which he entered Ecuador.
Jean-Jacques Nau, a former military and more recently a former police chief of the Delmas 33 stationhouse, who along with Guy Phillipe fled Haiti after it was alleged that he was involved in plotting a coup d'etat, is being held under house arrest in Ecuador.
Former colonel Guy Francois, who commanded the Caserne Dessalines barracks under Prosper Avril, was arrested by the Haitian police. Francois was driving a car with Dominican plates and had been implicated in the attack by commando Richardson, who is also in custody. Francois was presented on National Television.
Commando Richardson made declarations to the press that he had participated in prepatory meetings in Santo Domingo to plan the attack and that there were 25 armed men in the attack. He said, "It was a coup d'etat. The plan was to enter the National Palace." Commando Richardson stated that he had been engaged in planning to oust President Aristide with former Haitian military including Guy Phillipe and Gilbert Dragon, a former Haitian military who also more recently was the police chief of Croix-des-Bouquets, before fleeing with Phillippe and Nau amidst allegations of plotting a coup d'etat. Commando Richardson said that Guy Phillippe had said that Francois would have a backup team at the palace during the attack, but none arrived. Commando Richardson admitted that he had also participated in the July 28th attacks on the Police
Academy and two police stations. -end-