U.S. military airlifts embassy staff from Port-au-Prince amid Haiti’s escalating gang violence


The United States military conducted an overnight operation Saturday into Sunday to evacuate American personnel by airlift from the U.S. Embassy in Haiti as violence escalates in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and across the Caribbean country, U.S. Southern Command said in a statement Sunday. Additional security was deployed as part of the operation, officials said.

“At the request of the Department of State, the U.S. military conducted an operation to augment the security of the U.S. Embassy at Port-au-Prince, allow our Embassy mission operations to continue, and enable non-essential personnel to depart,” the U.S. Southern Command said in a statement to CBS News on Sunday morning. 

Airlifting U.S. personnel into and from the embassy is consistent with the military’s standard practice for enhancing security at embassies worldwide, the statement continued. There were no Haitians on board the aircraft during the airlifts, according to the military.

“Our Embassy remains focused on advancing U.S. government efforts to support the Haitian people, including mobilizing support for the Haitian National Police, expediting the deployment of the United Nations-authorized Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission, and accelerating a peaceful transition of power via free and fair elections,” the southern command said. “As announced in September 2023, the Department of Defense is postured to provide robust enabling support for the MSS, including planning assistance, information sharing, airlift, communications, and medical support.”

Haitian police officers deployed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 9, 2024, as residents desperately sought shelter amid a recent explosion of gang violence in the Haitian capital.


In a statement, the embassy in Haiti said it “remains open.” 

“Heightened gang violence in the neighborhood near U.S. embassy compounds and near the airport led to the State Department’s decision to arrange for the departure of additional embassy personnel,” the embassy said. “All arriving and departing passengers work for the U.S. government. The State Department continually adjusts its posture at U.S. embassies and consulates throughout the world in line with its mission, the local security environment, and the health situation, as pertinent.”  

The statement said further information about the airlifts in Port-au-Prince was not available.

Haiti has struggled with tumultuous political unrest for decades along with crippling gang violence. Last September, the Biden administration pledged $100 million, and, later, another $65 million, to support the Haitian National Police and improve security in the island nation amid its ongoing fight against powerful crime groups. Part of that money was put forward to back a cooperative security mission led by Kenya and involving multiple countries. The United Nations Security Council voted in early October to approve the mission and send a multinational force to Haiti for one year in hopes of quelling the gang violence, as it became more extreme.

But the latest bout of gang violence erupted at the end of February as Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry flew to Kenya to push for the deployment of that multinational force. Heavily-armed gangs attacked key government sites and attempted to seize control of the airport in Port-au-Prince, forcing businesses and schools in the area to close and displacing an estimated 15,000 people from their homes in the capital city, the Associated Press reported. Attacks on Haiti’s two largest prisons also led to a mass escape of thousands of inmates.

The explosion of gang violence prompted Haitian authorities to order a nighttime curfew and enact a state of emergency, which was still in place on Sunday.

—Margaret Brennan contributed reporting.


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