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Rebels Attack Town in Central Haiti

Rebels attacked a town in central Haiti on Monday, killing the police chief and taking control of a main north-south road in the country. Haiti's president says he will seek international assistance to help control violence now spreading in the northern and western parts of Haiti.

A group of heavily armed men attacked the town of Hinche about 113 kilometers northwest of Port-au-Prince on Monday. District Police Chief Maxine Jonas was killed in the encounter and the town is now cut off from the rest of the country.

The attack is the first to take place since two former senior Haitian police and paramilitary officials announced they had entered the country to join armed gangs holding Haiti's fourth largest city Gonaives. Hinche and Gonaives are the two major metropolitan areas of Haiti's Artibonite valley, which for centuries has been Haiti's most productive agricultural region.

At a news conference Monday, Haiti's President, Jean Bertrand Aristide, singled out the now defunct paramilitary organization known as FRAPH, for being behind the escalating violence. One of the two men who entered Haiti several days ago is Louis Jodel Chamblain, the former deputy commander of FRAPH. The other man is Guy Philippe, who served as Mr. Aristide's police chief until he fled the country two years ago after being implicated in a coup attempt. FRAPH is blamed for hundreds of deaths during the period of military rule in Haiti from 1991 to 1994.

Mr. Aristide says he will ask the Organization of American States for technical assistance to help Haiti's beleaguered police force fight the rebels. Haiti's seven thousand man Army was disbanded a decade ago and replaced by a police force of less than five thousand members.

However much of the force is tied up in Port-au-Prince far away from the violence in the countryside. Mr. Aristide, who calls the rebels terrorists, says the international community should not ignore the violence in his country.

"Those terrorists will not only face Haiti, they will be facing the world, through those who are involved in joining themselves to prevent terrorists to kill more people," he said. "So that is why I do believe a group of terrorists killing Haitians are not attacking only Haitians, they are attacking the world."

The crisis in Haiti has been escalating for months, but tensions rose sharply after an armed gang of former Aristide supporters seized the town of Gonaives earlier this month. A separate broad coalition of business leaders, politicians and others based in the capital who say Mr. Aristide is guilty of human rights abuses, corruption and mismanagement, have criticized the violence.

However they say they agree with the rebels that Mr. Aristide should step down. Mr. Aristide dismisses the accusations and says he will serve out the remaining two years of his term.

Armed gangs holding Gonaives allowed a Red Cross shipment of relief supplies to enter the city on Monday. The relief group CARE has also begun distributing food in Gonaives. U.N. officials say they are delivering food to northern Haiti by ship this week because the main north south roads linking the country have been cut due to the escalating violence.