Pubdate: Wed, 26 May 2010
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2010 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Ratiba Hamzaoui and Anthony Foster,  Agence France-Presse


Drug Czar Sought; Supporters View Gangster As Local

Gun battles raging in the Jamaican capital have left more than 60
people dead, mostly civilians, hospital sources said yesterday, as
troops fanned out across the city hunting an alleged drug kingpin.

With violence turning much of Kingston into a war zone, three trucks
loaded with bodies, including a baby, unloaded their grim cargo at a
morgue in one of the main hospital complexes, an Agence France-Presse
correspondent saw.

Hundreds of troops and police have been deployed to hunt down
Christopher "Dudus" Coke, wanted in the United States on
drug-trafficking charges, amid a week-long standoff with his loyal

The clashes appeared to be spreading after security forces stormed the
western seafront slum of Tivoli Gardens on Monday in a bid to capture
Mr. Coke, whose extradition order was signed by the government a week

Prime Minister Bruce Golding vowed the security forces would restore
law and order -- three days after his government declared a state of
emergency amid the worst violence to hit the Caribbean nation in decades.

Although the official police death toll stands at 26 civilians and one
member of the security forces, Mr. Golding warned "it is likely that
the number is higher."

Gunfire rattled around the cit as plumes of smoke hung above Tivoli
Gardens, which Mr. Coke's supporters had barricaded last week to
thwart his arrest.

Hospital sources told AFP that early yesterday, two trucks bearing
"about 50" bodies had been unloaded at the morgue at the Kingston
Public Hospital.

An AFP correspondent saw a third truck arrive full of bullet-riddled
corpses, including a baby, later in the day. A nurse said there were
12 bodies inside, and they came from a different area to the east of
the city called Mountain View.

Police also said they have detained 211 people, including

four women, but it was not known if Mr. Coke, 42, was among them. He
faces life imprisonment if convicted.

Supporters say Mr. Coke is a local hero for helping residents pay
bills, and even send children to school. Mr. Coke himself says he is
merely a businessman.

His supporters have stockpiled arms, attacked police and set up
barricades around Tivoli Gardens, which is also the parliamentary
district of Mr. Golding.

Soldiers in full combat gear and police yesterday combed the deserted
downtown streets, but security officials refused to confirm how people
many had been deployed.

For the third day, Kingston was under a state of emergency. Hel i
- -copters buzzed overhead and the normally bustling streets were deserted.

Those trapped in Tivoli for more than 24 hours appealed on the radio
for help and Mayor Desmond McKenzie said Red Cross officials were
heading there to provide assistance.

Residents have been warned to stay home, and the few who ventured out
stayed close to walls, diving for cover as gunfire rattled around the
area. Schools and stores have shut.

Most of the million tourists who flock to the island every year do not
visit Kingston -- long dubbed one of the murder capitals of the world,
with 1,700 homicides recorded in 2010 out of a population of 2.8 million.

The United States and other countries have warned their citizens
against travelling to Jamaica.

Drug warfare between rival gangs has long plagued the island, which is
a key transshipment point for cocaine from South America heading for
North America and Europe.

The U.S. Justice Department has labelled Mr. Coke one of the "world's
most dangerous narcotics kingpins." He is accused of leading since the
1990s an international gang -- dubbed "The Shower Posse" for the
number of bullets it allegedly has rained on foes -- which U.S.
prosecutors say sells marijuana and crack cocaine in Toronto, New York
and elsewhere in North America. 
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