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26 August 2005

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti_Haiti recalled its top diplomat to the Dominican Republic on Thursday after three Haitian migrants were beaten and burned to death in an attack that has added to growing tensions between the uneasy Caribbean neighbors.

Pierre Willy, Dominique Gilberto and Paul Cinius were attacked Aug. 16 in a small suburb just south of the Dominican capital, Santo Domingo, where they worked at a furniture factory, Dominican police said.

According to the Dominican Attorney General’s Office, the three men, aged 19 to 22, had been drinking alcohol with a group of Dominicans at a neighborhood store. Later that night, the Dominicans went to a house where the Haitians were staying and demanded money from one of them.

After he refused, the group jumped the men, beat them, doused them with a flammable liquid and set them ablaze, the Attorney General’s Office said in a statement. The men died days later from burn wounds in a Santo Domingo hospital.

In response to the killings, Haiti’s interim government recalled its charge d’affaires in the Dominican Republic “for consultation,” said Jean Daniel Lafontant, a spokesman for Haiti’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.

“The Haitian interim government energetically condemns these criminal acts. It deplores that such deeds have occurred at a time when significant efforts are being made to lastingly improve relations between the two countries,” a Foreign Ministry statement said.

The Dominican National Police said Thursday it had formed a commission to investigate the attack and find the killers.

The slayings seemed likely to further inflame growing tensions between the impoverished countries, which share a 243-mile (391-kilometer) border on the island of Hispaniola.

In May, the Dominican government deported at least 2,000 Haitians following the killing of a Dominican woman. No one was arrested the slaying, but Dominican neighbors went on a retaliatory rampage, beheading two Haitian migrants.

Although Haitian migrants are considered a burden in a country whose own citizens flee poverty by the thousands each year, Dominican farm owners often truck in Haitians to work in the fields, saying they need the cheap labor.

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