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Gangs attack Haiti's national palace in Port-au-Prince: Source

Haitian gangs launched a large-scale assault against multiple government buildings in or near downtown Port-au-Prince early Friday evening, according to a law enforcement source who took part in the fighting.

The source said the attack was coordinated and swift, with different groups simultaneously targeting multiple government buildings including the Presidential Palace, the Interior Ministry, and a police headquarters for Haiti's western district which includes Port-au-Prince.

ABC News has spoken to several people who witnessed intense gunfire and heard large explosions. Hundreds of people fled the area as gangs engaged in fierce battles against the police.

PHOTO: Haiti Presidential Palace (Before 2009 Earthquake) (Photo By Garrett Crawford/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Haiti Presidential Palace (Before 2009 Earthquake) (Photo By Garrett Crawford/Getty Images)

MORE: Haiti: The Forgotten Crisis

The source said as of publication, the attack was abating and gang members were beginning to retreat. It is unclear if the fighting is over for the night or if the gangs are simply regrouping.

The source said preliminary numbers indicate around a dozen gang fighters were killed, though cautioned the figure was not fully confirmed. No police casualties have yet been reported.

PHOTO: Haiti Experiences Surge Of Gang Violence (Giles Clarke/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Haiti Experiences Surge Of Gang Violence (Giles Clarke/Getty Images)

MORE: Gangs attempt to seize control of Haiti's main airport in latest attack

The Presidential Palace has not been occupied by any Haitian president since President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July 2021. A massive earthquake in 2010 destroyed large parts of the complex, making much of it completely unusable. However, it remains a poignant symbol of Haitian federal governance and is guarded around the clock.

Were the palace to fall under gang control, it would be an enormously symbolic blow to Haiti's efforts to fight organized crime and its ongoing rebellion in the country.

PHOTO: Haiti Experiences Surge Of Gang Violence (Giles Clarke/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Haiti Experiences Surge Of Gang Violence (Giles Clarke/Getty Images)

Haiti has been in open rebellion since the middle of last week, with Haiti's most powerful gangs unifying and launching a series of attacks against government institutions. Haiti's acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry was out of the country when the attacks began and has not been able to return.

A state of emergency has been declared by the government.

The U.S. State Department is encouraging American citizens to leave Haiti following the gang violence.

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti has a warning on its website advising citizens to "monitor local news and information on security conditions from commercial transportation providers and arrange to leave Haiti when security conditions and commercial transportation options permit doing so."

Gangs attack Haiti's national palace in Port-au-Prince: Source originally appeared on abcnews.go.com