Bloody battles claim dozens of lives in Jamaica

At least 44 people were said to be
dead after a third day of violence in Kingston, Jamaica, as security forces
assaulted the slum stronghold of armed groups believed to be defending accused
Jamaican drug lord Christopher “Dudus” Coke.

Mr. Coke, the son of one of
Jamaica’s most influential gang leaders, is fighting extradition to the U.S.,
where he is wanted on drug and gun-trafficking charges.

One member of the security forces
had been killed and seven injured in the confrontation that broke out following
Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s decision to extradite Mr. Coke, according to
local media reports. Mr. Golding, perhaps fearing violence, had wavered on the
extradition, but issued a warrant for Mr. Coke’s arrest last week.

Shooting, looting and attacks on
Jamaican police soon followed. On Sunday, the government declared a state of

The violence centred mainly in the
Trench Town area, a notorious warren of shantytowns and public-housing projects
celebrated as the childhood home of reggae legend Bob Marley. Fighting has also
been reported in Spanish Town, a suburb west of Kingston.

Jamaica’s official ombudsman,
Bishop Herro Blair, said at least 44 people have died in battles between police
and the drug gang.

While Mr. Coke remains at large,
wild rumours have spread through the capital. One has him directing a
counterattack from his stronghold; another that he has fled to a hideout in
Jamaica’s mountains.

Reports have circulated on Jamaican
radio of battalions of gunmen earning large daily sums to resist police and
build barricades, but couldn’t be confirmed. Jamaica’s daily newspapers report
that demonstrators protesting Mr. Coke’s arrest have interfered with police
actions, a tactic similar to events in Mexico’s drug war in recent months.

Don Foote, an attorney for Mr.
Coke, has pressed for a meeting with the chargé d’affaires officer at the U.S.
Embassy in Kingston. He said his client should be tried in a Jamaican court.

Mr. Luoma-Overstreet wouldn’t say
if an alternative trial in Jamaica was an option. “The charges upon which
the extradition request is based are violations of U.S. law.”


Jamaican troops patrol streets where barricades have been set up.
Photo: BBC News