Military ruler Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy was ousted in a military coup Saturday night and escorted under guard to the international airport, a government spokesman said.

Frantz Lubin, the government's director of information, told The Associated Press that it was believed Commander Prosper Avril had been named the new head of state and Dessalines Barracks Commander Jean-Claude Paul as new commander-in-chief of the army.At 11 p.m., Lubin said that Namphy was at the airport with his wife Gabrielle and his daughter, Melissa.

Lubin said there were no scheduled commercial flights and he assumed Namphy would be sent out of Haiti on a military plane to an unknown destination.

The government reported Namphy's ouster several hours after shooting broke out at the main plaza in front of the presidential palace. The gunshots sent dozens of people fleeing for cover in what appeared to be fighting between army factions, witnesses said.

"Namphy was arrested and escorted to the airport," at about 8:15 p.m. in a convoy of military vehicles led by a armored personnel carrier, Frantz Lubin, director of information, told The Associated Press.

Behind Namphy, Paul was considered the most powerful figure in the military regime.

In March, Paul was indicted by a federal grand jury in Miami for allegedly conspiring to import cocaine into the United States.

Gunfire was still heard at 10:30 p.m. in the city. An explosion shook the Lalue district about a half-mile from the main plaza.

A usually reliable source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said an army major told him that a group of officers detained Namphy after preventing him from entering the palace at 4:30 p.m.