Pubdate: Tue, 25 May 2010
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, The (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2010 The Gleaner Company Limited


Soldiers and police yesterday launched a bloody offensive on Tivoli 
Gardens where heavily armed thugs barricaded themselves to protect 
the mini-republic of a reputed crime overlord, causing street battles 
to ripple across Jamaica's capital.

At least three members of the security forces have been slain in 
gunfights and 14 others injured in two days of wide-scale violence 
that has swept western Kingston and other areas where rogue alliances exist.

Up to press time last night, the Constabulary Communication Network 
reported that seven law-enforcement personnel were injured in the 
latest phase of operations. Six of the seven were shot, one 
succumbing to his injuries. That fatality was a Jamaica Defence Force 
(JDF) soldier.

One soldier was reportedly injured in an undeclared accident. A 
soldier reportedly lost a leg, The Gleaner also learnt.

civilian casualties unknown

An undetermined number of civilians have been killed, with many of 
those believed to be among the gunmen who had engaged the security 
forces in fierce gun battles.

A source at Kingston Public Hospital said 23 persons had been 
admitted with gunshot wounds and three bodies delivered. A soldier 
told The Gleaner last night that many bodies were in Tivoli.

Hundreds of lawmen were yesterday hunting alleged drug kingpin 
Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, who is wanted in the United States to 
answer to drug and gun charges. There have no reports whether Coke 
was nabbed or killed in the assault.

The security forces decided yesterday that the time to appeal to Coke 
supporters to clear the many barricades they had erected had expired.

But the armed thugs were not prepared to surrender, and police and 
soldiers had to take back the streets - barricade by barricade, block by block.

For most of the day, the sound of gunfire echoed across the 
south-eastern city where commercial activity had come to a standstill.

'Ground zero' was the area around Tivoli Gardens stretching from 
Darling Street in the east, Industrial Terrace in the west,

Spanish Town Road to the north and Marcus Garvey Drive in the south.

But other areas, including the Fletcher's Land neighbourhood beside 
The Gleaner's North Street offices, Denham Town, East Queen Street in 
the vicinity of the Central Police Station, and sections of Hannah 
Town also saw major gun battles.

The writing was on the wall from early yesterday morning when sources 
in the security forces told The Gleaner that the time for talk was 
over and efforts would be made to take back the streets.

By mid-morning when gunmen attempted to storm the Central Police 
Station, the order was issued for the police and soldiers to use 
deadly force to repel the criminals.

A short while later, a massive deployment from the JDF was seen on 
Harbour Street with soldiers taking up strategic positions.

"Time to take back the streets," said a motorist as he drove past the 
JDF team. And that was obviously the intention of the security forces.

Persons ran for cover - even those several metres away - as the sound 
of high-powered weapons rocked buildings in west Kingston.

The police and soldiers sealed the entrances and exits to Tivoli 
Gardens, Denham Town and Hannah Town, barring all non-essential personnel.

Even members of the media were firmly and politely told that they 
would not be allowed on to the battlefield.

 From every possible vantage point, reporters struggled to get a peek 
at the firefight but most had to make do with a look at the thick, 
black smoke which billowed from inside the battleground - reportedly 
from the Coronation Market which had been set ablaze by gangsters.

Dwellings on Crooks Street and in Whitfield Town in the western end 
of the city were also razed.

Three persons were injured in the fire that destroyed two dwellings 
at Whitfield Town. No one sustained fire-related injuries at Crooks 
Street while the firefighters were unable to respond to the blaze at 
Coronation Market - Jamaica's main market - because of the wicked 
stand-off in the area.

But even those journalists several metres away at the intersection of 
Waltham Park and Spanish Town roads came face to face with the 
violence as random bullets struck at least one spectator.

Persons watching the drama from the neighbouring community of Rema 
also had to duck for cover as bullets whizzed by. Two bystanders were 
reportedly shot in the area.

As darkness descended over Jamaica's capital city, explosions were 
still being heard, sparking fears that the body count could be much 
higher when the tallying begins this morning.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart