(San Juan) A gang near the Haitian capital ambushed and killed three police officers on Sunday in the most recent attack on an underfunded police department that reported nearly two dozen officers killed since the earlier this year, authorities said.

The murders took place in Thomassin, a predominantly middle-class neighborhood just south of the capital Port-au-Prince, controlled by a gang called “Ti Makak”.

Details of the killings were provided by a police officer who survived the attack, according to the National Union of Haitian Police Officers, which said it was saddened by the news.

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry condemned the killings and offered his condolences.

“Our police brothers have today, once again, fallen under the murderous bullets of lawless thugs. We deplore these barbaric acts,” he wrote on Twitter.

He added that his government was doing everything possible to create a climate of security and stability “in the country too bruised and bereaved”.

At least 21 police officers have been killed so far this year as gangs continue to fight over territory and grow more powerful since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021.

The “Ti Makak” gang was also accused of killing three other police officers in September in Laboule. Two journalists were also shot and set on fire in this area last year, along with a former senator and his nephew.

In October, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry and other senior officials called for the immediate deployment of foreign troops to help fight the relentless gangs, but so far the UN Security Council, along with states United States and Canada, chose instead to impose sanctions. The international community has also provided equipment, training and other resources to the Haitian National Police.

As of mid-March, gangs were accused of killing at least 531 people and kidnapping 277 others in and around the capital Port-au-Prince. Another 160,000 people in the country of more than 11 million people have been displaced by the violence, according to the UN.

“Chronic instability and gang violence have contributed to soaring prices and food insecurity. Half the population is going hungry, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights warned last month. We are gravely concerned that extreme violence continues to spin out of control in Haiti. »

The UN estimates that gangs now control up to 80% of Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas.