Defense

Pentagon: Colombians arrested in Haiti leader's killing had US training

Some of the former Colombian servicemen who have been arrested in connection with the assassination of the Haitian president had received U.S. military training, the Pentagon confirmed Thursday.

"A review of our training databases indicates that a small number of the Colombian individuals detained as part of this investigation had participated in past U.S. military training and education programs, while serving as active members of the Colombian Military Forces," Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Ken Hoffman said in a statement.

The statement did not elaborate on how many of the men received training or what the training entailed. The department's review into the matter is ongoing, Hoffman said.

The Washington Post first reported on the training.

At least 13 Colombians who are suspected to have been involved in last week's shocking assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse have been identified as former Colombian military members.

Haitian authorities have arrested at least 20 people in connection with Moïse's killing, including two U.S. citizens of Haitian descent.

The assassination has plunged Haiti, which was already facing several humanitarian crises, into a leadership crisis.

Haiti has requested U.S. troops to come help guard critical infrastructure during the turmoil, but the Biden administration does not have plans right now to send troops. Administration officials did travel to Haiti earlier this week to review the country's security and assist with its investigation into the killing.

Moïse was fatally shot in his home outside Port-au-Prince in the early hours of July 7. Details of who orchestrated and financed the killing remain murky, and the news that some of the men involved received U.S. military training is sure to fuel suspicions about who was behind the attack.

U.S. military training of South American forces is common. And Colombia, in particular, has been a close partner of the U.S. military for decades, receiving funding and other assistance to combat drug trafficking and guerilla movements.

"The department routinely conducts training for thousands of military men and women representing partner nations from South America, Central America and the Caribbean," Hoffman said in his statement. "This training emphasizes and promotes respect for human rights, compliance with the rule of law, and militaries subordinate to democratically elected civilian leadership."

But former Colombian service members are also sought-after mercenaries, with the country's nearly 60 years of conflict and elite military training modeled after U.S. Army Ranger School providing fertile breeding ground for fighters to send to conflicts around the globe, such as in Yemen.

"The recruitment of Colombian soldiers to go to other parts of the world as mercenaries is an issue that has existed for a long time, because there is no law that prohibits it," the commander of Colombia's Armed Forces,  Gen. Luis Fernando Navarro, told reporters last week, according to Reuters. "There are a significant number of Colombian soldiers in Dubai, for example."

Updated: 11:32 a.m.

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