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47 now dead in Haiti; leader vows to stay

By Associated Press
Published February 12, 2004

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GONAIVES, Haiti - To cheers of approval, rebels set ablaze a man they said was a government hit man and shot another man Wednesday, raising the death toll to 47 in a popular uprising that began in this traditional hotbed of revolutionary fervor. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide said he would not resign.

South of Gonaives, police attacked rebels holed up in a slum in the port city of St. Marc, and witnesses said gunmen loyal to Aristide torched homes, killing two people, as looting and reprisals raged.

In northern Cap-Haitien, Haiti's second-largest city, sporadic gunshots crackled overnight, attackers looted a food warehouse and Aristide militants set up blazing barricades to prevent a possible rebel incursion.

The armed revolt has spread to several of the nation's towns and cities since beginning Feb. 5 in Gonaives, about 60 miles north of the capital, Port-au-Prince. But the weeklong rebellion has become somewhat of a stalemate, and much of the country remains quiet.

Critics have accused Aristide's government of inciting some of the violence, and the White House issued a rebuke Wednesday.

"We are extremely concerned about the wave of violence spreading through Haiti," said Scott McClellan, press secretary to President Bush. "We call on the government to respect the rights, especially human rights, of the citizens and residents of Haiti."

At his first news conference since the uprising, Aristide on Wednesday refused to resign and said the rebels - whom he labeled terrorists - were allied with the political opposition.

"They suffer from a small group of thugs linked to the opposition ... acting on behalf of the opposition," Aristide told journalists in the capital, adding he would step down only when his term expires.

He did not address how he planned to put down the insurrection. His officials have said that, to prevent civilian casualties, any counterattacks could take time to plan.

Aristide will be tested today when the Democratic Platform, a broad coalition that has distanced itself from the bloody revolt, has called for a huge demonstration for Haitians to show Aristide they no longer want his leadership.

[Last modified February 12, 2004, 01:00:30]


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