Alleged drug baron agrees to fly to US

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The scion of a Jamaican gang family was flown to New York yesterday after agreeing to his extradition, saying it was in his nation's best interests after clashes that killed 76 people.

Christopher "Dudus" Coke, whose supporters waged street battles with security forces last month in an attempt to prevent him facing drug and weapons charges in the US, waived his right to an extradition trial at his first appearance before a local judge.

Mr Coke said he was deeply saddened by the lives lost in the fighting, which centered around his power base in the Tivoli Gardens slum and hoped his decision will help Jamaica heal. "I take this decision for I believe it to be in the best interest of my family, the community of western Kingston and in particular the people of Tivoli Gardens and above all Jamaica," Mr Coke said in a statement released to the news media.

Tom Taveres-Finson, his attorney, said Mr Coke was taken to Kingston's airport by a military helicopter and was flown to New York aboard a US plane. Mr Coke, 42, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted. US prosecutors say Mr Coke, as leader of the notorious Shower Posse gang, has overseen large shipments of cocaine and marijuana to the eastern United States since the 1990s.

The 15-minute extradition hearing was held under heavy security at a military outpost in Kingston, the Caribbean nation's capital, out of fear of possible attacks by supporters.