Running battles between Jamaican authorities and drug gang members turned part of Kingston into a warzone Monday, with gunmen firing on police, killing one, as they hunted an alleged drug kingpin, reports AFP. Loud explosions shook the ground and sent plumes of smoke into the air as police broke through barricades erected by supporters of Christopher “Dudus Coke” tried to take control of the Tivoli Gardens area. Backed by soldiers and helicopters, they stormed the impoverished neighborhood under fire, seeking to arrest and extradite Coke to the United States. Police said at least one officer was killed and five others sustained injuries, a day after the government declared a state of emergency. Overnight, two officers were killed and six others wounded and Glenmore Hinds, deputy commissioner of police in charge of crime, confirmed at least one soldier had been killed. Reports from the embattled area suggested higher fatalities, but the ruling Jamaica Labour Party tried to reassure citizens, saying the raids were “inescapable and unavoidable.” “We hope that out of the national crisis there will come a rebirth of Jamaica, the land we love.” But the scene at Tivoli Gardens was desperate. “Somebody please come help us, somebody please come help us,” a woman pleaded on local radio from the area. Police advised people to remain indoors in Kingston, where power was cut off overnight, describing the threat level as “grave.” “You must realize, we are fighting a war,” Hinds said, as local media reported that Jamaican bloodbanks were seeking emergency donations. Coke enjoys popular support among some Kingston residents who see him as a sort of local Robin Hood, helping impoverished Jamaicans. But the US Justice Department has labeled him among the “world's most dangerous narcotics kingpins.” He is accused of leading since the 1990s an international gang known as “The Shower Posse,” which US prosecutors say sells marijuana and crack cocaine in the New York area and elsewhere. He was formally charged in the United States in August with conspiracy to traffic drugs and illegal weapons, and if convicted faces mandatory life imprisonment. The head of the Organization of the Americas, Jose Miguel Insulza, said the situation in Jamaica was “worrying” and stressed that the regional body “backs with all our force the Jamaican government.” The US embassy suspended non-essential services because of the “deteriorating situation” in Jamaica, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said. Hopes for a resolution rose early Monday after a lawyer for Coke, Don Foote, said he had scheduled a meeting with the US embassy. However, a spokeswoman for the US embassy, Rebecca Park, said she was not aware of any planned meeting, although she did not rule out dialogue in the future. Armed supporters of Coke roamed through the streets. Gangs burned down a police station and also stockpiled a large cache of weapons, including large-gauge rifles, officials said. The violence forced several airlines to cancel flights and a number of countries warned their citizens against travel to Kingston. Police commissioner Owen Ellington urged his force to respond to what he called “calculated, vile and cold actions” against them. “Do not hesitate to respond quickly and take decisive action when attacked by these criminals as it is now patently clear that they are hell bent on causing mayhem in the society,” Ellington said. Jamaica has long been a transit point for drug trafficking, but the United States had in the past hailed the government's response. More recently, the State Department questioned whether Coke was being protected by ties to the ruling Jamaica Labor Party and cast doubt on “Kingston's commitment to law enforcement cooperation with the US.” Coke's Tivoli Garden’s area is Golding's district, and he had hesitated approving Coke's extradition. But in a national address late Sunday, Golding declared a state of emergency and vowed to pursue Coke's arrest and extradition. “The criminal element who have placed the society under siege will not be allowed to triumph,” Golding said. “We must confront this criminal element with determination and unqualified resolve,” he said. But to some Kingston residents, Coke is more like a godfather. Thousands marched through the city Thursday chanting, “Leave Dudus alone, leave Dudus alone.” “He is next to God,” one demonstrator said. “Just like how Jesus died on the cross for us, we are willing to die for Dudus,” said another.
By: Ary News