SAN JUAN (AP) — A powerful gang has taken over many communities in central Haiti in recent weeks, killing at least 69 people and forcing authorities to abandon several police stations, the United Nations said Friday.

Another 83 people have been injured amid a reported outbreak of violence in the Artibonite Valley, which authorities blame on a local gang called the “Baz Gran Grif”, which roughly translates to “La Grande Griffe”.

The gang has “established a climate of terror, characterized by looting, murder, kidnapping, destruction, extortion, theft of goods and trucks with violence, and acts of rape of girls and women”, said reported the United Nations Integrated Office for Haiti (BINUH). ).

BINUH said it was “alarmed by the speed with which the gang expanded its activities into new areas and the flight of police to several communities”.

The gang is acusada de matar a siete agents de la Policía Nacional de Haiti en solo día a finals de enero, como parte de los continuos attacks que obligaron à un hospital que atiende à unas 700.000 personnesas en la región a suspended all servicios hace one week. Schools also remain closed and commercial activity and public transport have declined, according to the UN.

Gang activity was largely confined to Port-au-Prince, with gangs controlling around 60% of the capital, but they grew increasingly powerful and violent elsewhere in the country.

United Nations officials say thousands of residents of the central communities of Liancourt, Verrettes, Petite Rivière de l’Artibonite and Estère have fled to other neighborhoods to escape the ongoing violence.

“This cycle of violence must absolutely stop,” BINUH said. “We urge the authorities to do everything possible to protect the inhabitants of the region and their property.

The rising violence in central Haiti comes as Prime Minister Ariel Henry continues to urge the deployment of foreign troops, a request first made in October. Instead, the international community chose to impose sanctions and send in military equipment and other resources.

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