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5 Americans arrested in Haiti as violent protests continue

(CNN) — Haiti Foreign Minister Bocchit Edmond confirmed Monday that five Americans on the island have been arrested.

Three other people also have been arrested, two foreign nationals and one Haitian, Edmond said.

The identities of the people taken into custody were not immediately available.

Haiti’s police chief, Michel-Ange Gédéon, told CNN the eight individuals are being held for what he described as possession of illegal weapons.

Earlier, local authorities told CNN the Americans were being held on conspiracy charges. The foreign minister did not confirm the conspiracy charges.

The country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, has been rocked by deadly protests since February 7. Haitians have been on the streets, torching cars, clashing with police demanding President Jovenel Moise and the prime minister resign.

In an interview with CNN, Gédéon said the individuals arrested were in possession of automatic weapons, pistols, satellite phones and drones.

Gédéon said the people were taken into custody Sunday night while in suspicious cars without license plates.

Moise’s administration has been under fire for soaring inflation and accusations of corruption.

In a Saturday night televised address, Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Henry Céant called for calm and promised to uncover the corruption — which for many is at the root of the country’s problems.

Referring to the government’s own auditor’s report into how revenues from Venezuelan subsidized oil were siphoned off, he said: “Corruption is one of the biggest problems. We need to fight corruption.”

The US State Department issued a statement Monday confirming arrests by the Haitian National Police of “a group of individuals, including some US citizens.”

“When US citizens are arrested overseas we seek Consular Access as soon as possible and provide appropriate Consular assistance as provided by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations,” said the statement, which did not identify the Americans or provide further details.

The State Departmen on Thursday issued a Level 4 “Do not travel” travel advisory for Haiti, citing “crime and civil unrest” and “widespread, violent, and unpredictable demonstrations in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in Haiti.”

The State Department ordered all “non-emergency US personnel and their families” to leave Haiti, saying the country has “limited ability to provide emergency services to US citizens in Haiti.”

“Protests, tire burning and road blockages are frequent and unpredictable,” the advisory stated.

“Violent crime, such as armed robbery, is common. Local police may lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents, and emergency response, including ambulance service, is limited or non-existent.”

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