9 JTF2 SF Operator sent to Haiti to protect embassy
Date: Friday, February 27 2004
Topic: Canadian Politics
A small force of Canadian troops, likely members of the special operations unit Joint Task Force 2, is on its way to Haiti to protect embassy staff.
They will join a few Canadian Forces planners already in the war-ravaged country preparing the potential evacuation of over 1,000 Canadians, Maj. Mike Audette said Wednesday.
He would not say when the troops would arrive in the capital of Port-au-Prince, or if they had already arrived.
"We have dispatched CF members to assist the embassy in Haiti with security measures," Audette said. "We are not in a position to discuss the composition or numbers of security staff who have been dispatched."
The soldiers were sent after the Department of Foreign Affairs ``asked for the provision of personnel to assist with security measures for the embassy and its staff.''
A larger contingent of Canadian soldiers, but smaller than a 120-member company, has been put on alert and could depart to further secure the safety of embassy staff and other Canadian citizens in a matter of hours, said Audette.
Members of 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, in Gagetown, N.B., along with elements of the Joint Operations Group out of Kingston, Ont., and a Hercules aircraft in Trenton, Ont., have been put on standby, he said.
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin on Wednesday issued a statement calling for an "immediate" international civilian force to restore order in Haiti, where a rebellion threatens to topple President Jean-Baptiste Aristide.
France also said it wants human rights observers to be sent to the Caribbean country and a "long term" engagement of international aid aimed at reconstructing Haiti's dismal social and economic situation.
U.S. Marines were escorting foreigners trying to flee Haiti's capital Wednesday as looting broke out and opposition leaders urged a "timely and orderly" departure of the beleaguered president.
Aristide loyalists built dozens of flaming barricades, blocking roads all over the city and some leading to the airport.
Washington was encouraging the international community to provide a strong security presence in Haiti as America and its allies continued to try to achieve a political solution to the island nation's escalating violence.
On Tuesday, five Canadian Forces members arrived in Port-au-Prince to assist the Canadian embassy with planning the evacuation of Canadians should the situation worsen.
Ottawa has authorized the departure of non-essential staff from the embassy and all dependants of Canadian government personnel. Overall, there are about 30,000 foreigners in Haiti, some 20,000 of them Americans.
Credit: Stephen Thorne | Canadian Press