GONAIVES, Haiti -- Police reinforcements fought bloody battles with gunmen as they tried to retake Haiti's fourth-largest city yesterday from rebels who seized it two days earlier in a challenge to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
At least three police were killed, and crowds mutilated the corpses. One body was dragged through the street. Another policeman was lynched, and residents pelted his corpse with rocks.
At least one bystander was wounded in the face by a police bullet.
Rebels said they killed 14 police officers, Haitian radio stations reported; but the claim could not be confirmed.
The uprising appeared to be spreading. Armed Aristide opponents seized the police station in the west coast town of St. Marc on yesterday, firing into the air and chasing police away, private Radio Kiskeya reported.
Militants also have attacked police stations and forced out police in at least five small towns near Gonaives, Haitian radio reports said. Judge Walter Pierre told Radio Ginen that armed men were occupying the police station in the town of Anse Rouge yesterday and had confiscated weapons.
The rebellion had not yet reached Port-au-Prince, the capital, where throngs of government supporters marched yesterday to mark the third anniversary of Aristide's second inauguration.
Anger has been brewing in Haiti since Aristide's party swept flawed legislative elections in 2000. The opposition refuses to join in any new vote unless Aristide resigns, which he refuses to do before his term ends in 2006.
At least 61 people have been killed in the Caribbean country since mid-September in clashes among police, government opponents, and Aristide supporters.
An armed group known as the Gonaives Resistance Front drove police from Gonaives's police station during a five-hour gun battle on Thursday, then torched the station and other buildings. At least seven people were killed and 20 injured.