Civilians blockade capital as Haitian rebels advance

HAITIAN civilians barricaded roads into Port-au-Prince with buses and old refrigerators yesterday, after rebels fighting the president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, said they would march on the capital city within days.

With rebels holding half of Haiti, Mr Aristide appealed for international help for the country’s hopelessly outgunned police, who number only 4,000 in a nation of eight million, and have appeared on continual retreat since the revolt erupted on 5 February.

More than 60 people have been killed in the rebellion. Washington, which sent 50 marines to Haiti yesterday to protect United States facilities there, has urged US citizens to leave the country.

The Foreign Office yesterday also told Britons to leave, warning of a "highly volatile security situation".

Residents in Port-au-Prince shook their fists at cars that tried to pass the newly erected barricades. "[The barricade] is not for, or against, the government. It’s to protect the people in the area from the insurgents," said one young man.

Opposition parties and civil groups, who insist Mr Aristide quit but distance themselves from the two-week-old uprising, had until last night to respond to a US-backed power-sharing plan that would keep the president in office. Even if they did agree to a deal, which looked unlikely, it was unclear if it would halt rebels, whose professional-looking former soldiers pose a more serious threat to Mr Aristide.

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