Jamaica: Gunfire, Fire Bombs in Barricaded Slum

Strongman Christopher Coke,
 Masked men defending a reputed drug lord sought by the 
 United States torched a police station and traded gunfire with security forces in a patchwork of barricaded slums in Jamaica's capital Sunday.


Before Sunday's shooting started, police urged the neighborhood boss to surrender, calling the heavy barricades encircling his slum stronghold a sign of "cowardice."
The U.S., Canada and Britain issued travel alerts Friday warning of possible violence and unrest in Jamaica. Most islanders have been avoiding downtown Kingston.
The state of public emergency, limited to the parishes of Kingston and St. Andrew, will be in effect for one month unless extended or revoked by lawmakers, the government said.
In a national address Sunday night, Golding said the order gives authorities the power to restrict movement and effectively battle violent criminals. Security forces will also be able to conduct searches and detain people without warrants.
Golding stressed that Kingston "is not being shut down," and schools and businesses outside the battle zone will be open.
Coke is described as one of the world's most dangerous drug lords by the U.S. Justice Department. He has ties to the governing Jamaica Labour Party and holds significant sway over the West Kingston area represented in Parliament by Golding.

Security forces broke through barbed-wire barricades and fought their way into the warren-like Tivoli Gardens neighborhood Monday afternoon. Sporadic gunfire could be heard into the night echoing across the darkened slums, where authorities cut off power. Military helicopters flying with their lights off buzzed overhead.

The government declared a state of emergency as sporadic gunshots rang out in gritty West Kingston, stronghold of Christopher "Dudus" Coke, a Jamaican "don" charged in the U.S. with drug and arms trafficking. His defiant supporters turned his Tivoli Gardens neighborhood and other areas into a virtual fortress with trashed cars and barbed wire.

Photographs of Christopher "Dudus" Coke is seen in this image released by the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Soldiers and police stormed a Kingston slum on May 24, 2010 and traded gunfire with supporters of an alleged Jamaican drug lord Christopher Coke who faces extradition to the United States. 

Police said the attacks by gangsters roaming the streets with high-powered guns and improvised weapons were unprovoked. It called for all "decent and law-abiding citizens" in the troubled areas to immediately evacuate their homes and said security forces would ferry them out safely

 I Don't think They Got Him

Bishop Herro Blair, Jamaica's most prominent evangelical pastor, told The Associated Press that independent evaluations have put the number of civilian dead at 44 in West Kingston alone. Police have said that at least four soldiers and police officers also have died in fighting in West Kingston and elsewhere around the capital.
Police earlier reported at least 26 civilian deaths and the country's embattled Prime Minister Bruce Golding promised an independent investigation into all civilian deaths during the operation.
Blair and Jamaica's public defender were escorted by security forces into Tivoli Gardens, where supporters of Coke began massing last week after Golding dropped his nine-month refusal to extradite him to the U.S.

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