Jamaica: Gov't forces fighting drug gangs

Two killed as Jamaican government tries to extradite a powerful Kingston drug baron to the US.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
May 24, 2010 22:00
1 minute read.
Jamaica.

jamaica 311. (photo credit: Paul Foer)

 
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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.

Gunmen 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.

A police station in an outlying area of Kingston parish also was showered with bullets by a roving band of gunmen with high-powered rifles.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force said two officers have been killed and six injured during firefights with criminal gangs whose arsenals rival police firepower.


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.

Coke is described as one of the world's most dangerous drug lords by the US Justice Department.

Coke's gang is tied to the governing Labor Party.

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 warrants.

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