2 U.N. peacekeepers shot to death in Haiti

Saturday, November 11th 2006, 2:31 pm
By: News On 6

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) Unidentified gunmen attacked U.N. peacekeepers near a restive slum in Haiti's capital, killing two Jordanian members of the force, officials said Saturday.

The attack came late Friday as peacekeepers headed back to base near the Cite Soleil neighborhood, where well-armed gangs blamed for kidnappings are based, U.N. police spokesman Fred Blaze said. One soldier died en route to the hospital, the other while being treated.

U.N. officials said the slayings appeared premeditated.

``This was an extremely hostile and aggressive act against us, so clearly the people who did this had the intention of killing,'' said David Wimhurst, U.N. deputy mission chief in Haiti. ``Who they are, we don't know at this time.''

Jordanian government spokesman Nasser Judeh identified the soldiers as 1st Lt. Ahmad Mohammed Hassan Ba'irat and Cpl. Rami Wasif Taha Al Mohammed.

The U.N. peacekeeping force of 8,800 troops has been stepping up patrols to quell violence in the Caribbean nation's dense slums.

But there is growing opposition among poor slum dwellers to the Brazil-led U.N. force, sent to restore order after a bloody February 2004 revolt ousted then President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The residents of the poor neighborhoods have accused U.N. troops of firing indiscriminately during gunbattles with gangsters, killing and wounding civilians.

The U.N. denies the charge and says the blue-helmeted troops only shoot when attacked. No overall civilian casualty figures were available.

In recent days, students and slum dwellers have staged street protests calling for the U.N. force's withdrawal.

Nine peacekeepers have died in clashes since the force arrived in June 2004. In December, a Jordanian soldier was shot to death while patrolling Cite Soleil. Five other peacekeeepers have died in non-combat related incidents.