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The head of one of Haiti’s most powerful gangs, and the de-facto head of a consortium of gangs that have brought Port-au-Prince to a standstill has told Sky News he would consider a ceasefire and talks on the political future of the country if they were included.

But Jimmy Cherizier, known universally as “Barbecue”, has predicted that more violence is imminent, adding that a recent halt in the fighting is purely a technical pause.

“There is nothing calm, but when you’re fighting you have to know when to advance and when to retreat,” he said.

“I think every day that passes we are coming up with a new strategy so we can advance, but there’s nothing calm.

“In the days that are coming things will get worse than they are now…” he told me sitting in an alleyway in his stronghold.

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Political parties in Haiti, overseen by CARICOM, the Caribbean economic union of countries, are trying to form a transitional council that will take over the running of the country after the Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who is currently in the United States, stands down.

Cherizier has said they “respect CARICOM a lot” but dismissed the process as unrepresentative of the needs of the ordinary people and a smokescreen to allow “corrupt politicians” and what he calls “corrupt oligarchs” to continue running the country.

The only way the situation can move on, he insisted, is if the peace process includes him and his gang coalition.

“If the international community comes with a detailed plan where we can sit together and talk, but they do not impose on us what we should decide, I think that the weapons could be lowered,” he added.

“We don’t believe in killing people and massacring people, we believe in dialogue, we have weapons in our hand and it’s with the weapons that we must liberate this country.”

Jimmy Cherizier speaks to Sky's Stuart Ramsay
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Jimmy Cherizier speaks to Sky’s Stuart Ramsay

Read more:
What is happening in Haiti?
Vigilantes defending Haiti neighbourhood ‘tooth and nail’

A vortex of violence and poverty

Haiti has been paralysed by weeks of violence that has seen whole districts burnt to the ground, tens of thousands of people displaced from their homes, while murder, rape, and gun battles are a daily occurrence.

Port-au-Prince is 80% controlled by the gangs and normal life has virtually stopped.

To get to Barbecue we were guided down a now-deserted motorway pockmarked with burnt out sections of tarmac and abandoned and burnt-out vehicles.

It’s one of the main economic highways in the capital, and now totally under his control.

We were told that their snipers were watching us, and to drive slowly, and follow our guide’s every move.

We then turned off the main road and drove through a warren of backstreets, to a meeting point where we were greeted by a group of armed gunmen in balaclavas.

One of the main economic highways in the capital is now totally under Barbecue's control
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One of the main economic highways in the capital is now totally under Barbecue’s control

I’ve met Barbecue before, and I knew where we were going, but everything was different this time – that deserted highway was free flowing the last time I was here. Now it is a barricaded battlefield.

Another difference is that last time we met, he wasn’t too keen on us filming his armed guards, but now he positively wanted us to see them, and was carrying two weapons himself.

The reason is simple. He is at war, and he wants the authorities and his enemies here to know that it is a war.

He’s not responsible for all the violence sweeping across Haiti’s capital but, be under no doubt, he is at the centre of it and his fighters are never far away.

Barbecue sees himself as a revolutionary for the people, and he rails against corrupt politicians and oligarchs.

He has dismissed all the efforts under way here to form a transitional council that will govern Haiti.

“We believe in dialogue, we are for dialogue, but this political class that is here now is not here for dialogue, the reason is that they don’t carry Haiti in their hearts the same way that we do.

“The political class say they are excluding bandits, that men with guns are not in it, but this is a way for them to revive the same system, because the system has reached its end.

Stuart Ramsay eyewitness Haiti turmoil
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Stuart Ramsay eyewitness Haiti turmoil

“The divide between rich and poor is too vast, in the whole world there is a divide between rich and poor, but the way it’s done in Haiti is indecent,” he told me.

He suggested though, that he is open to some form of negotiations as long as they’re represented.

“We are ready for all solutions as long as Haitians are at the table, we are ready to sit and talk with everyone, because we are not proud of what is happening in this country…”

I asked him if he accepts that if they want to have talks, they’ll have to put down their weapons.

“The weapons will be lowered when they need to be lowered,” he replied.

“At the moment we haven’t got to the point where we should put down our weapons, because the people here don’t want to listen to reason.

“We have been hearing about dialogue for more than two or three years.

“We’ve been asking for everyone to sit down and talk to the people with guns, and no one heard us. Today we have reached the point where we are advancing and our objective is clear.”

Surrounded by well-armed gunmen, Barbecue took me for a walk around some of his newly acquired territory.

He took us through the roadblocks of buses they’ve put in place to stop police raids here.

He says the last major police assault was eight days ago and he’s not sure when there will be another.

Inside his territory, despite the poverty, life is relatively peaceful and organised.

Barbecue said we should see food distribution taking place inside his community.

And unlike what we have seen in other parts of Port-au-Prince, the queues for the food Barbecue gets brought in are orderly.

People queue for food in Barbecue's territory
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People queue for food in Barbecue’s territory

The essential difference is the people waiting in line know there’s enough food and water supplies for the whole community. They just need to wait.

The issue here though is whether a poor area, controlled by a gang boss, is getting better treatment than poor areas controlled by the government.

This is the source of Barbecue’s strength.

Cherizier, a former policeman, sees himself as a sort of revolutionary freedom fighter in the style of Che Guevara, and a Robin Hood type figure for his community.

For much of the international community though, and many in Haiti, he is a criminal gang leader.

Watched on by his well-armed and battle-hardened soldiers, Barbecue says plans for an international force led by Kenya to impose peace in Port-au-Prince will lead to more violence, whoever is in charge.

When I met him last in January 2023 I asked about foreign forces. He said at the time innocent people would die if they came in. I wondered if he still held the same view.

“I believe that just like I said, if the Kenyans come, first of all they will come to commit massacres in the poor communities, because the oligarchs and the corrupt politicians are going to tell them where to go on the pretext that they’re coming to eliminate gangs and bandits, and they’re going to enter the poor communities to commit massacres,” he said.

“We at this moment who have weapons in our hands are not going to allow this.

“It’s evolving. If the Kenyan military or Kenyan police come, whatever, I will consider them as aggressors, we will consider them as invaders, and we do not have to collaborate with any invaders that have come to walk over our independence.”

Barbecue is not only leader of the G9 group of gangs, he is now also the leader of Viv Ansanm (Living Together) revolutionary group, a newly formed gang alliance.

He said he’s trying to reign the more violent gangs in, and that they need to change their ways or risk losing their revolution.

“Viv Ansanm is a collective leadership – I can’t force them. If I use force against them it will be an endless fight, we will never be able to accomplish what we want to against the people who have created this situation,” he explained.

“But every day every day we talk seven or eight times on the phone, and each time we hear on the news that they kidnap someone or something bad is done.

“I always call the guys on the phone to see how together we can correct this, and even they who have been doing it are starting to be conscious that this is bad and that they’re not going to do it anymore.

“But me I just assure myself that I continue talking to them for them to stop and not continue to do it.

“I think in time we will find a solution with a country where there are no kidnappings, without raping and killing people, and in the end we will chase the corrupt politicians and the corrupt oligarchs out of the country.”

Cherizier flies a kite
Image:
Cherizier flies a kite

As we were getting ready to leave Cherizier paused to fly a kite.

It’s an early Easter tradition here. He laughed and joked with his people. He’s an unlikely hero but here in his territory he is.

In truth no ordinary society needs people like Barbecue, but Haiti isn’t normal.

How or when it achieves normality is impossible to predict.

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Joe Biden reaffirms US ‘ironclad’ support of Israel after Iran missile and drone attacks

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Joe Biden reaffirms US 'ironclad' support of Israel after Iran missile and drone attacks

Joe Biden has reaffirmed the US’s “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security after Iran launched more than 300 drones and missiles in an “unprecedented” attack.

With additional launches in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, over 300 drones and missiles, including 120 ballistic missiles and 30 cruise missiles, were fired at Israel.

RAF planes were involved in the defence of Israel on Saturday evening in a support capacity, Sky News understands, while US planes reportedly downed Iranian drones over northern Syria.

Follow live updates of Iran’s attack on Israel

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened an emergency war cabinet to discuss the situation late on Saturday night, while, in Washington, US President Joe Biden also held an emergency meeting with top security officials.

Benjamin Netanyahu with his war cabinet on Saturday. Pic: Israeli PM's office
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Benjamin Netanyahu with his war cabinet on Saturday. Pic: Israeli PM’s office

In a statement following the meeting, Mr Biden reaffirmed the US’s “ironclad” commitment to “Israel’s security against threats from Iran and its proxies”.

Across Israel, the military sounded sirens in multiple locations in southern areas last night as well as in parts of the occupied West Bank, an alert app showed.

A matter of hours after the attack from Iran, Lebanon fired rockets into northern Israel – who responded with their own launches.

Sky News international correspondent Alex Rossi, in Jerusalem, said he had heard “explosions” and seen “what look like air defence interception systems”.

Objects are seen in the sky above Jerusalem after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel in Jerusalem
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Objects are seen in the sky above Jerusalem after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel in Jerusalem

Interceptor missiles are launched into the sky in Jerusalem
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Interceptor missiles are launched into the sky in Jerusalem

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said it was responding to an “attack on the consular section of the Iranian embassy in Damascus” on 1 April.

Two generals and seven members of the IRGC were killed in the strike, which Tehran blamed on Israel. Israel has not publicly commented.

However, early on Sunday morning, a senior Israeli source told Channel 12 TV that the country was planning a “significant response” to the Iranian drone salvo.

Iran’s foreign ministry said Tehran would “not hesitate” to take “further defensive measures” to “safeguard its legitimate interests against any military aggressions”.

The response will be “much larger than last night’s if Israel retaliates against Iran”, the chief of staff of its armed forces Major General Mohammad Bagheri told state TV. IRG commander Hossein Salami added that Tehran will retaliate against any attack on its “interests, officials or citizens”.

Emergency services work at a destroyed building hit by an air strike in Damascus, Syria, Monday, April 1, 2024. An Israeli airstrike has destroyed the consular section of Iran's embassy in Damascus, killing or wounding everyone inside, Syrian state media said Monday. (AP Photo/Omar Sanadiki)
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An airstrike destroyed the consular section of Iran’s embassy in Damascus, killing or wounding a number of Iranian commanders earlier this month. Pic: AP

Ten-year-old “severely injured” by shrapnel

Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesman Daniel Hagari told a news conference “99%” of the projectiles were intercepted.

Mr Hagari said: “Regretfully, a 10-year-old was severely injured from shrapnel. We send them our wishes of quick recovery.

“Except for them, as far as we know, there have not been any other casualties and yet this event is not over.”

He added: “Iran pushed the Middle East towards escalation. We will do whatever is necessary in order to defend Israel.”

Air sirens sound in Israel

As the IDF announced the Iranian attack had begun, as did the White House, this weekend, it advised people in the Golan Heights, Nevatim, Dimona and Eilat to take shelter.

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Sky’s Alex Rossi reports live from Jerusalem

More than 300 drones and missiles were launched by Tehran, along with 30 cruise missiles – 25 of which were intercepted outside Israel’s borders, according to the IDF.

They said Israeli forces had “successfully intercepted” the majority of the launches with its air defence system – as well as with help from its strategic allies – before they reached Israel.

Mr Hagari said the Nevatim Air Force base had been targeted and struck, suffering “slight damage to infrastructure alone” but it continued to function.

In this image released by the White House, President Joe Biden, third from right, meets with members of the National Security team regarding the unfolding missile attacks on Israel from Iran, Saturday, April 13, 2024, in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington. (Adam Schultz/The White House via AP)
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US President Joe Biden meets with members of the National Security team. Pic: White House via AP

Mr Hagari also said 120 ballistic missiles were launched at Israel, but only a few managed to cross the border.

Drones were seen flying from Iran, through Iraqi airspace and in the direction of Israel, two Iraqi security sources told Reuters.

The drones are carrying 20kg of explosives each, Amos Yadlin, a retired general in the Israeli air force, told Channel 12 TV.

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Iraq and Jordan close airspace

An ‘unprecedented’ attack

Mr Biden labelled the attack by Iran and its “proxies operating out of Yemen, Syria and Iraq”, as “unprecedented”.

He condemned it in the strongest possible terms and said that the US military had moved aircrafts and ballistic missile defence destroyers to the region over the course of the past week.

He also spoke to Mr Netanyahu and reaffirmed his “ironclad” support for Israel and said he was going to convene his fellow G7 leaders in response to “Iran’s brazen attack”.

‘Attack further undermines regional security’

US, British and French planes assisted in the Israeli response to the attack.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement that additional RAF jets and air refuelling tankers had also been deployed to the region to “bolster” Operation Shader – the UK’s existing counter-IS operation in Iraq and Syria.

“In addition, the jets will intercept airborne attacks within range of our existing missions,” he said.

“I strongly condemn the senseless airborne attack that Iran has launched on Israel. It serves no benefit other than to further undermine regional security.”

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Jets from Jordan are also thought to have shot down Iranian drones flying across their airspace towards Israel, security sources have told the news agency Reuters – despite Tehran issuing an earlier warning to the country not to interfere with their strikes.

Israeli aviation authorities closed the country’s airspace to all flights – but it was reopened again several hours after the attacks.

Wing of Zion – Israel’s version of Air Force One – is airborne because of “operational considerations” and Mr Hagari added that the situation was “still unfolding”, and Israel continued to monitor its borders.

‘Reckless attack’

Earlier, Israel called off school trips and other youth activities planned for the coming days.

Jordan temporarily closed its airspace, state media reported, as did Iraq. Both have now reopened.

Egypt said its air defences were on alert.

Eithad airways has cancelled its services today to Tel Aviv in Israel and Amman in Jordan.

Read more:
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Iran attack on Israel: Everything we know so far

Israel’s PM vows Rafah invasion will go ahead

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Explosions light up the sky above Jerusalem

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he condemned “in the strongest terms the Iranian regime’s reckless attack against Israel”.

He added: “Iran has once again demonstrated that it is intent on sowing chaos in its own backyard.

“The UK will continue to stand up for Israel’s security and that of all our regional partners, including Jordan and Iraq.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “We condemn the Iranian regime’s decision to subject Israelis to these unacceptable attacks.

“The international community has been united in urging restraint, and we regret that, yet again, Iran has chosen a different, dangerous path.”

Saudi Arabia also called on all parties to exercise the “utmost levels” of restraint and to spare the region and its people the dangers of war, while UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres also urged “maximum restraint”.

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All-out war, or not, in the Middle East? Biden’s test at the most dangerous moment

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All-out war, or not, in the Middle East? Biden's test at the most dangerous moment

“What next?” It’s a question anxiously asked too many times in the past six months.

And no doubt the question formed the crux of the late-night call between President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Follow live: Iran launches attack on Israel

Iran’s spectacular drone and missile assault on Israel is truly unprecedented.

A region already reeling from the Hamas attacks and the Israeli retaliation on Gaza is being rocked again.

American leadership and leverage, tested repeatedly, is undergoing a bigger strain still.

This time though the consequence of President Biden’s test is all-out war, or not, in the Middle East. It is the scenario most feared since 7 October.

More on Iran

Without question, this moment – right now – is the most dangerous yet, by a long way.

A direct attack by Iran, from Iranian soil, against Israel is a red line crossed in Tel Aviv.

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The aftermath of the airstrike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on 1 April. Pic: Reuters

Iran’s trigger was another unprecedented moment and another red line crossed, on 1 April, when a missile landed on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria killing 16 people. The Israeli trigger for that? Iran’s malign regional behaviour, as they would see it.

Tit, tat, tit, tat. You can see how this spirals. It explains the grim faces of the US president and his officials in the White House situation room overnight.

Even though so many of the drones and missiles were intercepted and despite no mass casualty scenario, Israelis will feel profoundly vulnerable, and the Israeli government may feel compelled to retaliate.

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Explosions light up sky above Jerusalem

Impressions and the re-establishment of deterrence count for a lot in the Middle East.

That is precisely why Iran hit back after the Damascus consulate attack. It’s also why Israel may be unable to ignore Tehran’s weekend wave of drones and missiles. Never in its history has Israel faced an aerial assault like this.

Read more:
Netanyahu convenes Israeli war cabinet as Iran attacks

Direct attack against Israel by Iran is unprecedented
Iran attack on Israel: Everything we know so far

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And of course, in the White House they know all this all too well. But we all know too that the US-Israeli relationship has been severely strained by Gaza.

President Biden’s test now is to balance the action and reaction of a nation facing a moment that will feel, internally, to be existential with the consequences of an all-out regional war.

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Why has Iran launched drones?

Significant Jewish settler violence in the West Bank, Hezbollah attacks from southern Lebanon and the continued disaster in Gaza all risk compounding the chaos.

Iran’s actions were more than anyone had expected. An unprecedented and enormously risky attack on Israel. It was an extreme attempt to re-establish deterrence. That works both ways.

Just six months ago, days before 7 October, President Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan wrote “the region is quieter than it has been for decades… We have de-escalated crises in Gaza & restored direct diplomacy…”

He was spectacularly misguided.

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Turkey cable car collision: All 174 people stranded in cable cars above mountain rescued a day after fatal crash

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Turkey cable car collision: All 174 people stranded in cable cars above mountain rescued a day after fatal crash

The last of 174 people stranded in cable cars above a Turkish mountain have been rescued – almost 23 hours after one of the pods hit a pole and burst open, killing one and injuring seven others.

The accident, which sent people plummeting to the ground, happened at around 6pm local time on Friday on the Tunektepe cable car, just outside the popular tourist city of Antalya in the south of the country.

Footage taken in the aftermath of the crash showed the torn open wreckage of the car and tangled debris on the rocky ground as well as medics tending the wounded.

Rescue and emergency team members work with passengers of a cable car transportation system outside Antalya, southern Turkey, Friday, April 12, 2024. At least one person was killed and several injured Friday when a cable car pod in southern Turkey hit a pole and burst open, sending the passengers plummeting to the mountainside below, officials and local media said. Scores of other people were left stranded late into the night after the entire cable car system came to a standstill. (Dia Images via AP)
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The injured were airlifted to hospital

It left scores of passengers trapped in 24 cabins suspended high in the air. Interior minister Ali Yerlikaya confirmed the trapped passengers had been rescued on Saturday afternoon.

The major rescue effort involving helicopters and more than 500 emergency workers continued throughout the night.

Earlier, Okay Memis, director of the Turkish search and rescue agency AFAD, said 128 people in 16 cars had been rescued “under difficult conditions”.

He added: “The rescue of 43 others in eight remaining pods is ongoing.”

Mr Memis said rescuers hoped to complete rescue operations before dark.

The governor’s office named Memis Gumus, a Turkish national, as the man who died in the incident.

The injured, including two children, were airlifted to hospital.

A rescue team work with passengers of a cable car transportation systems outside Antalya, southern Turkey, April, Friday 12, 2024. A cable car disaster in southern Turkey left one person dead and seven injured over the busy Eid al-Fitr public holiday on Friday, local media reported. (IHA via AP)
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Rescue teams worked through the night to free those trapped. Pic: AP

It initially reported seven people had been injured in the collision, but the number was later revised to 10 by health minister Dr Fahrettin Koca.

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Mr Koca wrote on X: “One person died and 10 people were injured as a result of a cable car cabin falling in Antalya’s Konyaaltı district.

“May God have mercy on our citizen who lost his life in the accident, I wish a speedy recovery to our injured, and I wish a speedy recovery to the rescued and waiting to be rescued victims.”

The crash occurred on the final day of the three-day Eid al Fitr public holiday in Turkey – which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and sees families flock to coastal resorts.

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US ‘moving additional assets’ to Middle East

The cable car carries tourists from Konyaalti beach to a restaurant and viewing platform at the summit of the 618m (2027ft) Tunektepe peak.

It takes around nine minutes to make the ascent, according to its website.

It is run by Antalya Metropolitan Municipality.

An investigation has been launched by the Antalya prosecutor’s office to determine the cause of the crash.

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