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Last Updated: Monday, 8 March, 2004, 12:43 GMT
Gunmen kill six Haiti marchers
Protest in Port-au-Prince
Marchers have blamed Aristide's "Chimere" militias for the shooting
At least six people have been killed at a march in Haiti staged by thousands of opponents of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Gunmen opened fire on a crowd of 10,000 people that had gathered in the capital, Port-au-Prince, to celebrate Mr Aristide's downfall.

Witnesses blamed militiamen supporting Mr Aristide for the shooting.

US and French troops had been at the march, in an effort to prevent clashes between the two groups.

Meanwhile, Mr Aristide, on Monday insisted that he remains the elected president of his country.

Speaking at a news conference in the Central African Republic he called for "peaceful resistance" in Haiti and the restoration of democracy.

'Panic stuck'

The BBC's Daniel Lak in Port-au-Prince says there had been a festive atmosphere before the trouble broke out.

The peacekeepers were nowhere near where the shooting was
Wounded marcher
Crowds packed into the city's central square were dancing to the music of a disc jockey banned under President Aristide when shots rang out and panic struck, he says.

Witnesses said pro-Aristide gunmen known as Chimeres had come out of the slums around the square and opened fire from buildings or the top of a hill.

A Spanish television journalist, Ricardo Ortega, was among those killed.

At least 20 people were also said to be injured - among them other foreign reporters.

Hospitals sent out appeals for blood donations and medical staff to cope with the casualties.

'Ineffective protection'

Witnesses criticised US-led troops for failing to prevent the violence.

The Americans are only there to protect those who helped oust Aristide
Aristide supporter
"The peacekeepers were nowhere near where the shooting was," an injured man told the Associated Press news agency.

One man speaking over a truck loudspeaker told US marines: "People are dying every day in this country. You have to do something about it."

The 2,500 French and US peacekeepers - who have arrived in Haiti in recent days - had restored order in central Port-au-Prince but have avoided outlying slums where Mr Aristide has many supporters.

Maj Richard Crusan of the US marines told the BBC World Service that they did respond during the unrest to secure a building thought to have contained gunmen.

"It was pretty chaotic," he told the World Today programme, saying that some semblance of order was soon restored.

US marines take aim in Port-au-Prince
US marines said they wanted to support the Haitian police
"Our main concern was the stability and the security of the area. We're here to assist and support the Haitian national police in getting back to an ability to control Haiti right now."

Earlier, the pro-Aristide camp postponed a planned demonstration on Sunday, saying it had been offered no protection.

One supporter told AP: "The Americans are only there to protect those who helped oust Aristide."

The former president's supporters said their protest would now be held on Monday.

Cheers and demands

Earlier in the day, the anti-Aristide crowds tore down a billboard featuring the ousted president's face, carried it to the presidential palace and set it on fire.

Guy Philippe feted by supporters in Port-au-Prince
Rebel leader Guy Philippe was feted by supporters
They also cheered when rebel leader Guy Philippe was hoisted onto supporters' shoulders.

Some demonstrators demanded that the former president should be put on trial.

"His people must also be tried for looting state coffers and murdering civilians," opposition leader Evans Paul said.

Opposition leaders have been pressing for the replacement of Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, who has strong ties to the deposed president.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Daniel Lak
"Eyewitnesses blamed the Chimeres, pro-Arisitde militias, for the attacks"



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