Running battles between police and gunmen of the Shower Posse gang turned part of Jamaica’s capital Kingston into a warzone on May 24, with reports of explosions and civilian casualties. Two police were killed the previous day as police moved in to arrest accused kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke for extradition to the US. The confirmed death toll has now reached three, as a soldier was killed breaking through street barricades in the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood. National Security Minister Dwight Nelson said on national television that he had received reports of several civilian deaths and desperate pleas from residents pinned inside buildings by gunfire. Police and soldiers have begun house-to-house searches for Dudus Coke.
A state of emergency has been declared, the Kingston airport has been closed, and the US State Department has issued an advisory warning against travel to the city. The ruling Jamaica Labour Party tried to reassure citizens, saying the raids were “inescapable and unavoidable.” Dudus Coke is evidently viewed by many local residents as a benefactor who looks after the urban poor population abandoned by the government. But the US Justice Department has labelled him among the “world’s most dangerous narcotics kingpins.” (AFP, The Telegraph, May 25; The Telegraph, May 24)