U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield cut short her visit to Haiti on Friday after gunshots were heard at the funeral of the assassinated President Jovenel Moïse, officials said.
Thomas-Greenfield and the U.S. delegation, which also included U.S. Reps. Gregory Meeks of New York and Jeffrey Fortenberry of Nebraka, “arrived safely back in the United States,” the State Department confirmed late Friday afternoon.
The journey to Haiti came at “this critical moment” of the nation’s history when its “leaders must come together to chart a united path that reflects the will of the Haitian people,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
“The presidential delegation is safe, and accounted for, in light of the reported shootings outside of the funeral,” she said. “We are deeply concerned about unrest in Haiti.”
While the group departed earlier than expected, a senior administration official said the ambassador was able to meet with Haitian leaders at the funeral, including new Prime Minister Ariel Henry and Claude Joseph, who just stepped down from the position.
“Our delegation is here to bring a message to the Haitian people: You deserve democracy, stability, security, and prosperity, and we stand with you in this time of crisis,” Thomas-Greenfield said in a statement earlier Friday.
“So, we come here in solidarity with the Haitian people during this difficult time. And also, it’s important that we share our condolences with First Lady Martine Moïse and her family. But we also come to show our support for democracy and democratic process.”
The sound of gunshots was first reported by Reuters.
The slain president’s funeral unfolded as Haitians feared the ongoing political instability could lead to more violence in the Caribbean nation.
The late president’s wife, Martine Moïse, paid her final respects to her husband amid cries of “Justice! Justice!”
Her right arm still in a sling from the deadly June 26 attack, she put her left hand in the casket before bringing it to her heart. She tearfully observed a moment of silence along with their three children.
Outside the ceremony, protesters clashed with police as shots erupted and tear gas and black smoke wafted into the heavily guarded compound.