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Haitian Justice Minister Assassinated by Gunmen

By Kenneth Freed
Los Angeles Times

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti

Gunmen Thursday assassinated Justice Minister Guy Malary, a key supporter of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the official who was to oversee the dismantling of the corrupt and brutal Haitian police force.

The killing came three hours after U.N. special representative Dante Caputo had said a worldwide economic embargo would go into effect as scheduled Monday unless the military and police here disarm civilian gunmen and guarantee an end to public violence.

The murder of Malary, a 50-year-old law graduate of Howard University and former World Bank official, was followed by two occupations of the National Assembly and a reported military riot in Petit Goave, a port city 35 miles west of Port-au-Prince.

The effect of Thursday's bloodshed and other violence was to pull the plug from the life support system that was barely sustaining a negotiated process aimed at ending military rule and returning Aristide to power.

At the same news conference where he demanded an end to violence tolerated -- if not directed -- by the military, Caputo for the first time acknowledged that the scheduled Oct. 30 arrival date for Aristide might be delayed.

Since the date had all but become scripture for the international community -- "Aristide won't be even two hours late," Caputo had said recently -- the special envoy's admission of a postponement underlined a growing pessimism that democracy can be restored here under current circumstances.

According to U.N. officials and other diplomats, Malary and three bodyguards had just left his office in the central Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Turgeau about 1:30 p.m. They had traveled some 400 yards when his car was hit by a barrage of gunfire from two or three civilian-dressed men.

The car overturned, full of bullet holes and with the rear window shattered. Three bodies, including Malary's, were found laid head-to-toe on the street outside Sacre Coeur church.

It was uncertain if they had been killed in the car or executed on the street. A bodyguard was still alive in the car and was taken to a hospital in critical condition.

Diplomats said it appeared that the killing was planned to take place in front of the church, the site of the assassination last month of Antoine Ismery, a leading Aristide supporter, and a site for gatherings by Aristide followers.

Officials would not comment on the record about who was responsible for the murder, the latest act of violence that has brought to a halt a process aimed at restoring Aristide to office and forcing from power the military and police leaders responsible for overthrowing the president two years ago.

One international official, however, pointed out that Malary was to be in charge of a new civilian police force, one divorced from the army. A key target of that reorganization is Col. Michel Francois, the shadowy Port-au-Prince police chief publicly branded a killer by Caputo.

Malary also angered Francois and army Commander in Chief Raoul Cedras in September when he fired Supreme Court President Emile Jonassaint, a rabid anti-Aristide figure and, under the Haitian constitution, the next in line for president if Aristide failed to return.

"The killings had all the characteristics of the attaches," the official said, referring to a paramilitary organization under Francois' control that has carried out a 3{-month terror campaign to scuttle an agreement signed July 3 in New York that calls for Aristide's restoration to power on Oct. 30.

In addition to the Malary killing, members of a violent organization called the Force for Haitian Advancement and Progress stormed into Parliament on Thursday afternoon and held several legislators and workers hostage for about 30 minutes.

The group, whose acronym in Creole -- FRAP -- means to strike or beat, demanded that Cedras remain as head of the military even though he has publicly agreed to resign by Friday.

Even as the FRAP gunmen were leaving, members of another anti-Aristide group occupied the legislature to demand that Aristide not return. Named the October 11th Revolutionary Council to honor the Monday violence that prevented an American military ship from landing in Haiti, the group consists of other organizations who support Cedras and Francois.