Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated Wednesday in a "highly coordinated" attack on his residence, the country’s acting prime minister confirmed in a statement.
The country's first lady, Martine Moïse, was injured and in critical condition. The Haitian ambassador to the U.S. told NBC News on Wednesday evening that she was flown to Florida and receiving medical attention in Miami.
Claude Joseph, the acting prime minister, said that a group of "highly trained and heavily armed" people attacked Moïse's residence around 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, shooting him and his wife.
Joseph called the attack a "hateful, inhumane and barbaric act."
“Haiti has lost a true statesman,” Joseph said. “We will ensure that those responsible for this heinous act are swiftly brought to justice.”
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Joseph called on the international community to launch an investigation into the killing and asked the United Nations to hold a Security Council meeting on the attack "as soon as possible."
"We urge Haitians to show restraint and maintain a peaceful environment over the coming days," Joseph said.
Bocchit Edmond, Haiti's ambassador to the U.S., said earlier Wednesday that the assassins appeared to claim to be agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. State Department spokesman Ned Price later told reporters that it was "absolutely false" that DEA agents were involved.
The U.S. ambassador to Haiti, Michele Sison, who was in the U.S. when the assassination took place, has been in regular contact with Haitian officials, including the head of the country’s national police, Price added.
Haiti needed assistance from the United States and other countries to strengthen its national police, Edmund, Haiti’s ambassador to Washington, told reporters.
“We cannot have a stable country without security,” Edmund said.
Moïse was elected in 2016 and took office in February 2017.
President Joe Biden said the White House was "shocked and saddened."
"We condemn this heinous act, and I am sending my sincere wishes for first lady Moïse’s recovery. The United States offers condolences to the people of Haiti, and we stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti," Biden said.
The U.S. Embassy said it was instructing staff to stay at its compounds in Port-au-Prince until further notice and advised Americans in the country to avoid unnecessary travel.
The Caribbean country of around 11 million is one of the poorest in the Americas. It has been gripped by violence and gridlock in the last few months. Protests against the president turned violent in February.
Opposition leaders demanded that Moïse step down, arguing that his term legally ended in February. Moïse and supporters maintained his term began when he took office in early 2017, following a chaotic election that forced the appointment of a provisional president to serve during a yearlong gap.
Moïse is survived by his wife and three children, according to The Associated Press.