Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jamaica drug raid toll reaches 27

Christopher "Dudus" Coke (Photo: Jamaica Constabulary Force)At least 27 people, almost all civilians, have died in gun battles in Jamaica, police have said, as the hunt continues for a suspected drug lord.

Troops and police had stormed the stronghold of Christopher "Dudus" Coke in the Tivoli Gardens district of the capital Kingston.

A state of emergency has been in place in parts of Kingston since Friday, when several police stations were attacked.

A decision to extradite Mr Coke, 41, to the US had angered his supporters.

Mr Coke, who insists he is a legitimate businessman, enjoys the support of many impoverished Kingston residents who see him as a benefactor and have vowed to protect him at any cost.

But the US justice department accuses him of being one of the world's most dangerous drug barons.

Fierce fighting

On Tuesday, the third consecutive day of unrest, thousands of heavily-armed police and soldiers continued their assault into the capital's most violent slums, battling masked gunmen loyal to Mr Coke.

It doesn't feel safe in downtown Kingston today.

Out on the streets, the police are watching for snipers. The occasional bullet whizzed through the air and hit the palm trees.

This is a disaster for Jamaica's reputation. The main offensive is a mile away, but even in the commercial heart of the capital, people are being pinned back against the walls. Normal life is on hold.

Dudas is seen by many here as a kind of Robin Hood figure, a protector of the poor.

And that's why it's hard to see what happens next - the authorities are intent on capturing Dudas; those loyal to him intent on stopping that at whatever cost.

Gangs from slums just outside the capital also joined the fight, erecting barricades on roadways and shooting at troops, the AP news agency reported.

At least one member of the security forces and 26 civilians were killed in the two-day raid, a police statement said. Another seven officers and 25 civilians were also injured.

A total of 211 others have been detained, including six women, but there was no confirmation that Mr Coke was among them.

No comments: