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6 Killed as Pro-Aristide Militants Attack Crowd in Haiti - 2004-03-08

At least six people including a Spanish journalist were killed in Haiti on Sunday when militants loyal to former President Jean Bertrand Aristide attacked a crowd outside the National Palace. More than 30 people, including a U.S. newspaper photographer were wounded in the incident.

U.S. Marines returned fire from the grounds of the National Palace against militants who attacked a crowd celebrating Jean Bertrand Aristides departure last week.

The militant pro-Aristide supporters known as Chimeres, which roughly translates as ghosts, attacked a crowd of several thousand who had marched through the capital on Sunday to celebrate the departure of Jean Bertrand Aristide.

The crowd had gathered in front of the National Palace in a festive demonstration when the shooting started. Haitian photojournalist Daniel Morel was near the Chimeres when they started firing on the crowd. "We were some yards away when the shooting started. I saw two guys go down. That's all I saw," he said.

It was the most violent incident to occur since Mr. Aristide's departure. Looting and violence which had been rampant in the capital in the days following Mr. Aristide's departure had largely subsided.

In response to the violence last week, Haitian authorities declared a state of emergency. But despite the state of emergency, Haitian police had made no moves to disarm the armed gangs who populate the Port-au-Prince slums and who have threatened violence since Mr. Aristide departed the country.

Speaking late Sunday, Haitian Prime Minister Yvon Neptune condemned the violence and said all efforts will be made to find those who carried it out. "I have instructed the national police force to take all possible measures to find and apprehend the assassins from whatever political corner they may be from," he said. "To arrest them, put them in jail and bring them to justice."

There are about two thousand multinational troops in Haiti. U.S. Marines and French troops provided some security for the march as it got under way early Sunday, but there were no multinational troops outside the palace grounds providing security for the demonstration when the shooting started.

U.S. Marines and French troops fanned out across the city Sunday night following the attack to prevent any further violence.