Two men who were killed in gun fight and 15 others being interrogated in assassination of President Jovenel Moise "may have belonged to national army" of Colombia, having left it between 2018 and 2020, police say.
Seventeen Colombian ex-soldiers are thought to have been involved in the assassination of Haiti's President Jovenel Moise, Colombia's police director has said.
Two men who had died at the hands of Haitian police and 15 others under suspicion "may have belonged to the national army" of Colombia, having left it between 2018 and 2020, general Jorge Luis Vargas told a press conference on Friday.
Moise was shot dead in a pre-dawn attack on Wednesday by a 28-member hit squad made up of 26 Colombians and two Americans of Haitian origin, according to Port-au-Prince.
The president's wife, Martine, was wounded.
Four companies' involvement in crime
The Colombian authorities provided no further information on the men's army careers or the reason for their departure from service.
Two of the suspects flew from Bogota to Panama on May 6 and from there to Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic, where they stayed four days before taking a flight to Haiti, according to Vargas.
The other Colombians arrived in the Dominican Republic – which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti – on June 4, and travelled to Port-au-Prince two days later.
Colombia has said it has information on four companies' involvement in the crime, without giving further detail.
President Ivan Duque earlier announced that Colombia will send an intelligence mission to Haiti to aid in the investigation.
Foreign hit squad
Haiti's police chief Leon Charles has said three members of the hit squad were killed by police and 17 taken into custody.
Eight remain at large.
Colombia's El Tiempo newspaper said among those arrested was Manuel Antonio Grosso Guarin, 40, one of the country's most experienced soldiers.
Another was Francisco Eladio Uribe, who, according to his partner, left the army in 2019 after a 20-year career.
The partner, identified only as Yuli, told a radio station Uribe was recruited by a security company that offered body guard services.
State of siege
Investigative Judge Clement Noel told the French-language newspaper Le Nouvelliste that the Haitian-Americans arrested, James Solages and Joseph Vincent, said the attackers originally planned only to arrest Moise, not kill him.
Noel said Solages and Vincent were acting as translators for the attackers, the newspaper reported on Friday.
Moise's brazen killing stunned a nation already reeling from poverty, widespread violence and political instability.
Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who assumed leadership with the backing of police and the military, declared a two-week "state of siege," and asked people to return to work and reopen businesses that were shut down in normally bustling Port-au-Prince.
He also ordered the international airport to reopen.
US sending officials to aid probe
US-trained Colombian soldiers are heavily recruited by private security firms in global conflict zones because of their experience in a decades-long war against leftist rebels and powerful drug cartels.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the US will be sending senior FBI and Homeland Security officials to Haiti "as soon as possible" in response to a Haitian government request following the killing of Moise.
She said on Friday that the US "remains engaged and in close consultations with our Haitian and international partners to support the Haitian people in the aftermath of the assassination."
Haiti’s interim government said that it asked the US to deploy troops to protect key infrastructure as it tries to stabilize the country and prepare the way for elections.
“We definitely need assistance and we’ve asked our international partners for help,” Interim PM Joseph told The Associated Press in an interview, declining to provide further details. “We believe our partners can assist the national police in resolving the situation.”
Meanwhile, the Haitian envoy to the United States requested US President Joe Biden's administration impose sanctions on perpetrators in the killing of Moise, according to a letter.
"We further request for the Biden Administration to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act on all perpetrators who are directly responsible or aided and abetted in the execution of the assassination of the President," according to a letter from ambassador Bocchit Edmond to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday.