Saturday, April 10, 2004

Hti: Rebel arrested

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- A U.S.-led multinational force tasked with bringing stability to Haiti stepped up its efforts by arresting two top rebel figures in separate raids, officials announced Friday.

French peacekeepers and Haitian police briefly detained Wilford Ferdinand, a rebel commander who had been accused of kidnapping a Haitian police officer, French military spokesman Maj. Xavier Pons said.

U.S. and French troops, meanwhile, helped Haitian police arrest Jean Robert, a rebel sympathizer and gang leader accused of terrorizing supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in northeast Haiti.

The arrests this week marked the first time the U.S.-led multinational force acted against leaders in the three-week rebellion that led to Aristide's ouster.

Robert was arrested April 3 in Ouanaminthe, a remote northern town on the Dominican border. He was placed on a U.S. military helicopter and flown to the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, where he was awaiting charges, Pons said Friday.

Ferdinand, known as ''Ti-Will,'' was held Wednesday at a hotel in the northern city of Gonaives, a rebel stronghold, Pons said. He didn't resist arrest and was released four hours later at the request of police in Port-au-Prince.

Ferdinand claimed he took the unidentified officer into custody to prevent him from being lynched, Pons said. Troops and police seized 10 weapons during the raid.


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