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Haitian Police Move to Retake Gonaives - 2004-02-07


At least three policemen in the Caribbean nation of Haiti have been killed in fighting with armed rebels. The violence is taking place in the northern city of Gonaives where rebels opposed to Haiti's President have burned down several government buildings and freed a large number of prisoners.

Police are reported moving from building to building in the port city of Gonaives trying to dislodge rebels who several days ago burned down the city's police and fire stations as well as several large businesses in Haiti's fourth largest city. At least seven people were killed and more than 20 others injured in the violence.

It is the most serious violence yet in a nearly year-long political crisis that has gripped Haiti. A coalition of opposition politicians and business leaders is calling on President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to leave office two years before his term is set to expire. The opposition charges Mr. Aristide's government with human rights violations, mismanagement and corruption - charges Mr. Aristide and his supporters deny.

Opposition leaders have denounced the violence in Gonaives, saying it hurts their cause. Armed gangs in the city - many of them former supporters of Haiti's President - are believed to be behind much of the violence.

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