A state of emergency has been declared for two districts of the Jamaican capital of Kingston after police stations became the target of gunfire attacks. The violence is believed to be connected to an extradition request for a local drug boss.
AFP - Jamaican authorities Sunday clamped Kingston under a state of emergency and urged people to leave the city's roughest neighborhoods, as police clashed with armed gangs over the possible extradition of a drug suspect to the United States.
A police officer and a civilian were wounded by gunfire in street clashes and three police stations came under attack in the city, police said. One police station was set ablaze after police abandoned it having run out of bullets, they added.
Police charged that gunmen from various communities across this Caribbean country of 2.8 million had joined forces with criminal elements in Tivoli Gardens in a bid to protect reputed gang leader, Christopher "Dudus" Coke.
"It is now clear that criminal elements are determined to launch coordinated attacks on the security forces," police warned in a statement.
With tensions soaring, they added, "all decent and law-abiding residents of Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town are been asked to leave those respective communities immediately."
Residents asked to leave were directed to buses which would take them to a safe location.
But many telephoned radio stations insisting that they feared for their lives, and could not leave.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding held an emergency meeting with his cabinet Sunday and issued a State of Emergency for Kingston and St. Andrew that came into effect at 6:00 pm (2300 GMT) and will last for at least a month.
Trouble began earlier this week in Kingston after the government approved a US extradition request for Coke, a reputed gang boss and local community leader wanted on drug and gun trafficking charges.
Thousands of Coke supporters thronged the streets on Thursday amid police reports gangs in the area were amassing weapons and had erected barricades in the street to prevent Coke's detention, after an arrest warrant was issued for his capture.
Considered one of Jamaica's most influential and dangerous men, Coke, 42, is the reputed leader of the Shower Posse gang with branches all over the United States, and also heads the Tivoli Gardens community, which Golding represents in Parliament.
The United States accuses Shower Posse members, under Coke's direction, of having sold marijuana and crack cocaine in New York City and other areas of the United States, funneling profits back to him.
But for local 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.
Though Golding signed the extradition request for Coke, reversing an earlier decision, the petition is pending a final court decision before which Coke is required to attend a hearing.
The US State Department on Friday issued a travel warning urging US citizens to weigh the risks of traveling to and within the Kingston metropolitan area.
"The possibility exists for violence and/or civil unrest in the greater Kingston metropolitan area," the State Department said.
Date created : 2010-05-24