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Haiti gang violence: 12 bodies seen in streets as gangs attack upmarket areas of capital Port-au-Prince

At least 12 people have been killed in the latest wave of violence in Haiti after armed gangs went on the rampage in two affluent areas of the capital, as chaos grips the poverty-stricken Caribbean country.

Gunmen looted homes in Laboule and Thomassin early on Monday, with desperate residents fleeing and calling radio stations, pleading for help from police.

Up until now, the two neighbourhoods had been mostly peaceful despite an escalation in gang violence across the capital Port-au-Prince, which started on 29 February.

The bodies of at least 12 men, believed to have been shot, were seen on Monday on the streets of nearby Petion-Ville by a photographer with the Associated Press news agency.

One victim was lying face up and surrounded by a scattered deck of cards. Another was found face down inside a truck that operates as a taxi.

A woman, whose relative was among the victims, collapsed at the scene, while a man shouted "abuse, this is abuse" and "people of Haiti, wake up".

The gang violence has sparked a humanitarian crisis, with food supplies cut, leaving many on the brink of famine as hundreds of thousands of people are forced from their homes.

An aid container stocked with "essential items for maternal, neonatal and child survival", was looted at the main port, the UN children's agency said on Saturday.

Meanwhile, a charter flight carrying more than 30 Americans has landed in Miami, Florida, after the US embassy in Port-au-Prince urged its citizens to leave as soon as possible.

Last Tuesday, Haiti's unpopular prime minister Ariel Henry, who has recently been in Puerto Rico leaving a power vacuum in his country, announced he would resign once a transitional presidential council was created.

Powerful gangs, who have deep ties to the political and economic elite, currently control about 80% of the capital and their leaders are demanding a say in the future of the troubled island nation.

Gang bosses have long tried to oust Mr Henry and have warned of a "battle" for Haiti as they threatened politicians who could join the transition council.

The council is yet to be appointed, with regional leaders putting forward several political associations to participate but factions struggling to unite.

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More than 200 gangs are believed to operate around Haiti, mostly in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas.

Over 20 are based in the capital and loyal to two main coalitions.

They are G9 Family and Allies led by Jimmy Cherizier, a former elite police officer known as Barbecue; and G-Pep, led by Gabriel Jean-Pierre, who is allied with Johnson Andre, leader of the 5 Seconds gang and known as Izo.

Most of the inmates at the main prison escaped earlier this month after gunmen stormed the facility.

The US military last week flew in extra forces to bolster security at the US embassy, which is in a neighborhood largely controlled by gangs.