The Pentagon on Thursday confirmed that some of the suspected assassins of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse had received past training from the U.S. military while they were serving in the Colombian military.
In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Ken Hoffman said that a review of training databases showed a "small number" of the Colombians who were detained as part of the investigation into Moïse's assassination had taken part in U.S. military training and education programs.
The Washington Post first reported the suspected assassins' U.S. military ties.
Hoffman said the review is continuing, and further details were not available.
"The Department [of Defense] routinely conducts training for thousands of military men and women representing partner nations from South America, Central America and the Caribbean," Hoffman said. "This training emphasizes and promotes respect for human rights, compliance with the rule of law, and militaries subordinate to democratically elected civilian leadership."
The revelation could complicate the Haitian government's request for U.S. security assistance in the wake of the assassination, and raise more questions about the military's track record of training South American troops.
At least 18 men, including two who are believed to hold dual U.S.-Haitian citizenship and 15 Colombians, have been detained. Three were killed by Haiti police during a shootout.
Haitian authorities have identified members of the militia group responsible for the attack, a majority of them former Colombian commandos who also have ties to CTU Security, a Florida-based security company. Officials have also connected Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a pastor and doctor, to the assisination, which gravely wounded first lady Martine Moïse at the presidential residence in Port-au-Prince July 7. Authorities allege that 63-year-old Sanon, who was arrested over the weekend, conspired to overthrow Moïse from power. He maintains his innocence, according to multiple media reports.
After Moïse's murder, the Haitian government asked the United States to send in troops to provide "security assistance." The Biden administration sent a team of officials, primarily from the FBI and the Homeland Security Department, to Haiti to review the situation and assist the Haitian government, but no Defense officials were part of that team.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said on Monday the Pentagon is reviewing the request and discussing it with other agencies, but no decision had been reached.
U.S. troops are no strangers to Haiti. Service members were sent for previous humanitarian relief operations following the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country.
Roughly 22,000 service members deployed for medical assistance, food distribution and reconstruction efforts during a 6-month rotation.