Group of unidentified individuals attacked home of President Jovenel Moise overnight, killing him and wounding his wife Martine Moise, says PM Claude Joseph.

Jovenel Moise's assassination comes amid deepening political and economic stability and a spike in gang violence in the  Caribbean country.
Jovenel Moise's assassination comes amid deepening political and economic stability and a spike in gang violence in the Caribbean country. (AP)

Gunmen have assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moise and wounded his wife Martine Moise at their home, inflicting more chaos on the unstable Caribbean country that was already enduring an escalation of gang violence, anti-government protests and a recent surge in coronavirus infections.

Claude Joseph, the interim prime minister, confirmed the killing on Wednesday and said the police and military were in control of security in Haiti, where a history of dictatorship and political upheaval have long stymied the consolidation of democratic rule.

Joseph declared emergency and said he was now in charge of the country.

"In strict application of article 149 of the constitution, I have just chaired an extraordinary council of ministers meeting and we have decided to declare a state of siege throughout the country," Joseph said.

"The president was assassinated at his home by foreigners who spoke English and Spanish," he said.

Joseph condemned what he called a "hateful, inhumane and barbaric act," adding that Haiti's National Police and other authorities had the situation in the Caribbean country under control.

Joseph also called on the "international community to launch an investigation into the assassination and for the United Nations to hold a Security Council meeting".

Former president Michel Martelly, whom Moise succeeded, said he was praying for first lady, calling the assassination "a hard blow for our country and for Haitian democracy, which is struggling to find its way."

READ MORE: Haiti foils 'attempted coup', dozens arrested

Spike in violence, growing instability

The killing late early on Wednesday comes amid deepening political and economic stability and a spike in gang violence.

The nation of more than 11 million people had grown increasingly unstable and disgruntled under Moise's rule.

Its economic, political and social woes have deepened, with gang violence spiking heavily in the capital of Port-au-Prince, inflation spiraling and food and fuel becoming scarcer at times in a country where 60 percent of the population makes less than $2 a day. 

These troubles come as Haiti still tries to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew that struck in 2016.

Rule by decree

Moise, 53, had been ruling by decree for more than two years after the country failed to hold elections, which led to Parliament being dissolved. 

Opposition leaders have accused him of seeking to increase his power, including approving a decree that limited the powers of a court that audits government contracts and another that created an intelligence agency that answers only to the president.

In recent months, opposition leaders demanded the he step down, arguing that his term legally ended in February 2021.

Moise and supporters maintained that his term began when he took office in early 2017, following a chaotic election that forced the appointment of a provisional president to serve during a year-long gap.

Haiti was scheduled to hold general elections later this year.

READ MORE: Haiti protesters call on president to resign

Here are some of the reactions from world leaders, governments and international bodies: 

United Kingdom

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was "shocked and saddened at the death of President Moise."

"Our condolences are with his family and the people of Haiti," he added. "This is an abhorrent act and I call for calm at this time."

United States

"It's a horrific crime," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. The Biden administration was still gathering information, she said. 

"We stand ready and stand by them (the people of Haiti) to provide any assistance that's needed."

Turkey

Turkey’s foreign minister expressed his "grave sorrow".

Mevlut Cavusoglu expressed his sentiments on Twitter for the "cowardly" killing of Jovenel Moise and said the late president was "recently received in our country on the occasion of the Antalya Diplomatic Forum."

Cavusoglu also extended condolences to Moise's family and the Haitian people.

Spain

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez condemned the assassination.

"I’d like to make an appeal for political unity to get out of this terrible trauma that the country is going through," Sanchez said during a visit to Latvia.

Colombia

Colombian President Ivan Duque called on the Organization of American States to send an urgent mission to Haiti to protect democracy.

"We reject the vile assassination of the Haitian President Jovenel Moise. It is a cowardly act full of barbarity against the entire Haitian people," he said.

Argentina

Argentina's Foreign Ministry strongly condemned the assassination of Moise, reaffirmed its solidarity with Haiti, and expressed its rejection of the use of violence.

"Argentina hopes that peace and tranquility will soon be recovered in the country and asks for respect for democratic institutions. It calls for the perpetrators of the crime to be quickly identified so that they can be held responsible for their actions."

Bolivia

Bolivian President Luis Arce said: "We condemn these acts of violence...our condolences to the Haitian people." 

Taiwan

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen offered her condolences in a statement on Twitter.

"We wish the First Lady a prompt recovery, & stand together with our ally Haiti in this difficult time," Tsai wrote. Haiti is one of the few countries in the world that maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which China claims as its own.

European Union

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he was "shocked" by the assassination.

"This crime poses a risk of instability and a spiral of violence. The perpetrators of this assassination must be found and brought to justice," Borrell wrote on Twitter.

United Nations

The UN Security Council expressed its shock over the assassination

"Council members say they are deeply shocked by the assassination of President Moise earlier in the day... and are concerned about the fate of the First Lady, Martine Moise, who was also shot and wounded in the attack," France's UN ambassador, Nicolas de Riviere said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies