(photo credit: Paul Foer)
Jamaica — Jamaica's security forces clashed with masked gunmen allied with an alleged drug kingpin for a second consecutive day on Monday as an intensifying multi-front battle against gangs spread to volatile slums outside the capital.
Police and soldiers came under heavy fire in barricaded battle zones in the West Kingston stronghold of Christopher "Dudus" Coke, who is trying to avoid extradition to the US on drug and arms trafficking charges. Military helicopters with mounted guns buzzed above the impoverished area, between plumes of black smoke.
West Kingston, which includes the Trenchtown slum where reggae superstar
Bob Marley was raised, is the epicenter of the violence.
shot at police while trying to erect barricades in a poor section of
St. Catherine parish, which is just outside two parishes where the
government on Sunday implemented a monthlong state of emergency.
police station in an outlying area of Kingston parish also was showered
with bullets by a roving band of gunmen with high-powered rifles.
Jamaica Constabulary Force said two officers have been killed and six
injured during firefights with criminal gangs whose arsenals rival
Violence erupted Sunday afternoon after nearly a
week of rising tensions over the possible extradition of Coke to the
United States, where he faces a possible sentence of life in prison.
is described as one of the world's most dangerous drug lords by the US
Coke's gang is tied to the governing Labor
Prime Minister Bruce Golding had stalled Coke's
extradition request for nine months with claims the US indictment relied
on illegal wiretap evidence. After Golding reversed himself last Monday
amid growing public discontent, Coke's supporters began barricading
streets and preparing for battle.
In a national address Sunday
night, Golding said the state of emergency order for Kingston and St.
Andrew parish gives authorities the power to restrict movement. Security
forces will also be able to conduct searches and detain people without