Jovenel Moise, the president of Haiti, has been shot dead in his home and his wife is in hospital with a gunshot wound, the country’s interim prime minister announced on Wednesday.
Claude Joseph, the interim prime minister of Haiti, confirmed the 53-year-old president’s death in a brief statement and said he was now in charge of the country. He described the killing as an "inhuman and barbaric act."
According to the Juno 7 news website, Moise was assassinated in the middle of the night after a group of "unidentified Spanish-speaking individuals" broke into his private residence at around 1am on Wednesday.
The attackers were "armed commandos" according to Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste.
He was "mortally wounded" and his wife, 47-year-old First Lady Martine Moise, is in hospital after being injured by a gunshot wound, Mr Joseph said.
Mr Joseph added that he was urging the public to remain calm as the police and army would protect them.
"The country’s security situation is under the control of the National Police of Haiti and the Armed Forces of Haiti," he said.
Haiti has been embroiled in a political crisis which has seen hundreds march through Port-au-Prince calling for the downfall of the government.
The Caribbean nation has long been marred by poverty and political instability. It has also struggled to rebuild in the wake of a dire earthquake in 2010 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
Allegations of financial mismanagement and Moise’s decision to end fuel subsidies also jaded his rule.
Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said he was "shocked and saddened" by the assassination.
"Our condolences are with his family and the people of Haiti. This is an abhorrent act and I call for calm at this time," he said.
The White House said on Wednesday that President Joe Biden was being briefed on the "tragic" attack and that Washington was prepared to help in any way it could.
The streets of Port-au-Prince were mostly deserted early on Wednesday as Haitians awoke to the grim news, while Mr Joseph said police had been deployed to a number of areas including the National Palace.
The current political crisis was fuelled by questions over whether Moise’s presidential term has expired, and whether he was ruling unconstitutionally.
In an interview with the Telegraph last year, he defended himself against claims of corruption and turning Haiti into a dictatorship.
“We’re trying to find a solution to this crisis. I’m not the first president to rule by decree. And I’m confident that the answer is around the corner; then the legislature will be put in place to play its role," he said at the time.
His opponents claim that he should have resigned on February 7 and that he failed to hold legislative elections in 2019, in a breach of the country’s constitution.
In February, Moise claimed that he was the victim of an assassination plot which had been foiled by Haitian police.
“There was an attempt on my life,” he said at the time in a national address. “I thank my head of security at the palace. The goal of these people was to make an attempt on my life. That plan was aborted.”