Haitian President Jovenel Moise was assassinated during an attack on his private residence early on Wednesday, AP reported. He was 53.

Haiti’s First Lady Martine Moise was shot in the incident and hospitalised, Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said in a statement.

Joseph said the attack was a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act”. “The country’s security situation is under the control of the National Police of Haiti and the Armed Forces of Haiti,” the interim prime minister added. “Democracy and the republic will win.”

Early on Wednesday, the streets of country’s capital Port-au-Prince were largely empty but some residents ransacked businesses in an area. Gunshots were also heard, reported Reuters.

The situation could worsen because of a growing humanitarian crisis, food shortages and rising inflation in the country where 60% of the population makes less than $2, or about Rs 150, a day. In recent months, gang violence has also increased in the capital as armed groups fight with police and one another for control of streets.

These problems are coupled with Haiti trying to recover from the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew that struck in 2016. The earthquake had killed more than 2 lakh residents, while more than a thousand died in the hurricane.

Moise had been ruling by decree for more than two years after the country failed to hold elections and the Parliament dissolved. The president faced protests after taking office in 2017. This year, the Opposition had accused him of attempting to install a dictatorship by overstaying his mandate and becoming more authoritarian. Moise had denied the charges.

The Opposition leaders say that Moise’s term has ended in February 2021, five years after Former President Michel Martelly stepped down, reported BBC. However, the president and his followers maintain that his term started in 2017, when he assumed office.

The year-long delay was caused by allegations of electoral fraud. This resulted in the 2015 election being annulled and fresh polls being held. Moise won the polls.

On 7 February, the day when the Opposition said Moise’s term should have ended, Moise had said that a “coup to overthrow his government and assassinate him” had been foiled.

Meanwhile, the United States Embassy said in a statement that it would be closed on Wednesday due to the “ongoing security situation”.