BBC News: By George Wright – The United States says it has airlifted non-essential embassy staff from Haiti, as the country spirals further into gang violence.

The Americans have also boosted security at their mission in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

It follows attacks by gangs on the airport, police stations and prisons this week. They are pushing for Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s removal.

A three-day state of emergency has been extended by a month.

“Heightened gang violence in the neighbourhood near US embassy compounds and near the airport led to the State Department’s decision to arrange for the departure of additional embassy personnel,” the embassy posted on social media.

It added that the embassy will remain open.

The pre-dawn operation appeared to be conducted by helicopter, the AFP news agency reports, citing nearby residents who described hearing the sounds of aircraft blades overhead.

On Sunday, Germany’s ambassador to Haiti also left, travelling to the Dominican Republic, along with other EU representatives, the German foreign ministry told AFP.

It comes as the situation in Haiti has deteriorated.

The country’s main port said it was suspending operations on Thursday due to sabotage and vandalism.

Gangs in the violence-wracked city stepped up their attacks when Mr Henry left for a regional summit last week.

Mr Henry attempted to fly back to Port-au-Prince on Tuesday but ended up in the US territory of Puerto Rico instead.

He could not land in the Haitian capital because its international airport was closed as soldiers repelled attempts by gunmen to seize it.

Civil aviation authorities in the neighbouring Dominican Republic also turned the prime minister’s plane away, saying that they had not been provided with the necessary flight plan.

Mr Henry has not given any public statements since he visited Kenya, where he met President William Ruto to salvage a deal for the east African country to lead a multi-national force to help restore order in Haiti.

The two leaders signed a reciprocal agreement which paves the way for 2,000 Kenyan police officers to be sent to Haiti but a Kenyan opposition politician says he will challenge the deal in court.

On Saturday, the US State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with the Kenyan president about the Haiti crisis and the two men underscored their commitment to a multinational security mission to restore order.

Gangs in Port-au-Prince have taken advantage of the prime minister’s absence to unleash a series of co-ordinated attacks.

Among their targets was the airport – which they want to control to prevent Mr Henry from flying back in – and two prisons, from which they freed thousands of inmates.

At least six police officers have been killed while the National Police Academy has been destroyed.

The bodies of several prisoners were also left lying on the streets after the storming of the national penitentiary.

The violence has caused Haiti’s humanitarian crisis to deteriorate even further.

Gang leader Jimmy "Barbecue" Chérizier
Image caption,Gang leader Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier has been holding news conferences as his G9 gang alliance has attacked key buildings

The gangs have not said what their aim is beyond the ouster of Mr Henry.

Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier, a former police officer who leads an alliance of gangs called G9, has threatened that if Mr Henry does not step down there will be a “civil war” which he said could end in “genocide”.

The unrest has seen 362,000 Haitians internally displaced – more than half of them children, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says.

“Haitians are unable to lead a decent life. They are living in fear, and every day, every hour this situation carries on, the trauma gets worse,” Philippe Branchat, IOM’s chief in Haiti, said in a statement.

“People living in the capital are locked in, they have nowhere to go,” he said. “The capital is surrounded by armed groups and danger. It is a city under siege.”

Aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres estimates that at least 2,300 people were killed in the violence in 2023 in the Port-au-Prince neighbourhood of Cite Soleil alone, home to 9% of the capital’s population.

In other news, five people who were kidnapped in Haiti last month, including four missionaries, have been freed from captivity, their Catholic congregation said Sunday.

The missionaries were abducted in Port-au-Prince, where kidnappings for ransom are commonplace.

Top Feature Photo: Police patrol a street in Port-au-Prince