Canadian troops were sent to Haiti Wednesday to help secure the embassy in the wake of increasing unrest.
“Today we dispatched security assistance CF [Canadian Forces] members to assist in security of the embassy and its staff,” Major Mike Audette told globeandmail.com.
The military personnel left Canada Wednesday, Major Audette said. He would not disclose how many troops were sent, but Canadian Press reported that nine personnel headed to Haiti Wednesday.
Canadian Press said they were likely part of special operations unit Joint Task Force 2, but Major Audette would not confirm that information.
The personnel will join some Canadian military members already stationed in Haiti.
“Yesterday, we disclosed that we provided a planning staff of five to the embassy to assist them in reviewing contingency evacuation plans. So, they're there,” said Major Audette.
The planning staff will assist to help approximately 1,000 Canadians flee the country if necessary.
In the Haitian capital of Port-Au-Prince, looting erupted Wednesday as pressure mounted for international intervention in the three-week-old uprising against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Large numbers of foreigners still in the troubled Caribbean country tried to flee, some guarded by U.S. marines.
Looting erupted in the Haitian capital on Wednesday as pressure mounted for international intervention in the three-week-old uprising against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
News of troops being sent came as panic overtook the Haitian capital, despite the fact that there was no sign of the rebels who have overrun half the country.
Roads all over Port-au-Prince were blocked by dozens of flaming barricades, shops were shuttered and hotels were barred against looters.
The roadblocks were intended to stop the rebels who began the uprising Feb. 5, but militants at the barricades also used guns and stones to stop cars and loot them of handbags, luggage and cellphones. Police did not intervene.
American Airlines delayed three of its five daily flights to the United States because crew and passengers were trying to get through the roadblocks. Air Jamaica cancelled its flights to Haiti.
Also Wednesday, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin urged the “immediate” dispatch of an international civilian force to restore order in the former French colony.
The Canadian Defence Department is also prepared to send a New Brunswick-based regiment to Haiti. If ordered, the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Canadian Regiment in Gagetown could be in Haiti in less than12 hours, Major Audette said.
Another group, from the Canadian Force Joint Operations Group in Kingston and a Hercules aircraft based at 8 Wing Trenton, Ont. have also been told they are on standby, he said.
“Some of these elements have been put on standby to support DFAIT with evacuation of embassy staff and Canadians in Haiti should it be deemed necessary.
“They've simply been put on warning that if you're needed, be ready, but at this point we have not had that requirement,” Major Audette said.
Britain and Australia have urged their citizens to get out of Haiti, following similar warnings from Canada, the United States, France and Mexico. There are about 30,000 foreigners in Haiti.