Heavily armed police patrolled the Jamaican capital yesterday after at least three people were killed in an outbreak of violence by supporters of an alleged drug lord who faces extradition to the United States.
The government declared a state of emergency in sections of the capital Kingston and St Andrew on Sunday, as the Prime Minister Bruce Golding vowed "strong and decisive action" to restore order. "We must confront this criminal element with determination and unqualified resolve," Mr Golding said.
The emergency in Jamaica, a popular Caribbean tourism destination, covered districts of the capital where gunmen shot up or set fire to five police stations on Sunday. Security force officials said at least two policemen and one civilian were killed and seven police officers wounded in the attacks, which were accompanied by sporadic reports of looting and carjackings.
The assailants were supporters of Christopher "Dudus" Coke. The government has called on him to surrender to face a US judicial request seeking his extradition on cocaine trafficking and gun-running charges.
US prosecutors have described Coke as the leader of the infamous "Shower Posse" that murdered hundreds of people by showering them with bullets during the cocaine wars of the 1980s.
Heavily armed police patrolled streets yesterday around the poor Tivoli Gardens area of west Kingston where Coke is believed to be hiding, brandishing automatic assault rifles from the back of sport utility vehicles. The normally bustling streets were mostly deserted, as the country marked its Labour Day national holiday and motorists and passers-by steered clear of the troublespot.
The US State Department had issued a travel alert warning of violence in Kingston before the weekend, as tensions rose after Mr Golding said he was starting proceedings to extradite Coke.
In his nationwide address on Sunday, the Prime Minister said the state of emergency would remain in effect for a month and would demonstrate that Jamaica is "a land of peace, order and security" where gang-related violence will not be tolerated.
"This will be a turning point for us as a nation to confront the powers of evil that have penalised the society and earned us the unenviable label as one of the murder capitals of the world," Mr Golding said.
The United States requested Coke's extradition in August 2009 but Jamaica initially refused, fuelling bilateral tensions as it alleged that evidence against him had been gathered through illegal wiretaps.
In its annual narcotics control strategy report in March, the US State Department said Coke's well-known ties to Jamaica's ruling party highlighted "the potential depth of corruption in the government".Reuse content