A gang in Haiti has shot and killed at least seven people who were marching in a big protest organised by a church leader.
Hundreds of parishioners, some armed with machetes, marched through a suburb of the capital, Port-au-Prince, in a bid to rid the area of gang members.
The gang is said to have opened fire on them with machine guns.
Soaring gang violence in Haiti has left more than 2,400 people dead in 2023 alone.
There are fears the death toll from Saturday’s shooting could increase, with several people wounded and others kidnapped.
Reuters news agency says unverified videos on social media showed people being shot at in the street, bodies lying on the ground and people who appeared to be hostages saying they thought the march was peaceful and had no idea it was about taking on the gang.
The protest happened in the suburb of Canaan, which was founded by survivors of the devastating 2010 earthquake.
Canaan is controlled by a gang led by a man identified only as “Jeff”, who is believed to be allied with the 5 Segonn “5 Seconds” gang.
Gédéon Jean, director of Haiti’s Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, told the Associated Press news agency that he watched the event unfold online and planned to ask the Ministry of Justice to investigate.
He accused the pastor who organised the march of being irresponsible because he “engaged a group of people and put them in a situation like this”.
“Police should have stopped them from going,” Mr Jean said. “It’s extremely horrible for the state to let something like this happen.”
Decades of instability, disasters and economic woes have left Haiti one of the poorest and most violent countries in the world.
Gang violence has soared since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, which led to much of the Caribbean country’s territory falling out of government control, so now around 80% of the capital is controlled by gangs.
Turf wars have since driven a surge in refugees, severe food shortages, murders, kidnappings and sexual violence.
UN rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said that in the year to 15 August, at least 2,439 Haitians had been killed, 902 injured and 951 kidnapped.
Amid the soaring violence Haitians have organised a violent movement known as “bwa kale” that targets suspected gang members. More than 350 people have been killed since that uprising began in April, according to the UN.
Source : bbc