Tuesday, May 25, 2010

JAMAICA IN CRISIS, "AT WAR WITH ITSELF" (UPDATE 4)

Kingston, Jamaica - Jamaica's capital continues to be a war zone, as more than 1,000 police and soldiers "assaulted a public housing complex occupied by heavily armed gangsters defending an alleged drug lord wanted by the U.S., waging a major offensive in the heart of West Kingston's ramshackle slums." (Associated Press) The man they are after is Christopher "Dudus" Coke (photo). Update: Siege in Kingston now "quieter," but continues. Could flare up again any moment... BBC video report (updated at 2:08 GMT, Wednesday, 26 May 2010 3:08 UK) In another report, by AFP, hospital sources "said they saw more than 60 bodies, although police put the death toll at 27. But Prime Minister Bruce Golding warned the figures would likely rise, and police late Tuesday reported several murders." Gunshots and large explosions can be seen and heard in the capitol city, and the violence is said to be spreading. The Kingston airport was closed intermittently yesterday and is reportedly closed again today. (Press TV) Some excellent video reports to bring to your attention: The first, by CNN, posted today at 9:36 a.m. EDT. The others are posted at Jamaica News Network (JNN) Nightly News (via RadioJamaica). JNN has a series of reports posted, allowing you to see the history of this story as it developed. The Jamaica Gleaner reports this morning that "The armed forces yesterday strongly repelled the relentless firepower of gunmen, allegedly from Fletcher's Land, who launched an assault on the Central Police Station in Jamaica's capital, Kingston.... The gunmen, apparently emboldened by the attacks on six police stations a day earlier, turned their venom on the Central Police Station. But alert crime fighters hit back with a vengeance, resulting in a fierce gun battle around the headquarters of Kingston CIB. A day earlier, the Hannah Town Police Station was attacked, pillaged and burnt. So too were the Fletcher's Land, Darling Street and Denham Town stations in western Kingston. The Spanish Town and Cross Roads stations were also fired on." The Jamaica Observer gives a chilling reports that "criminal gangs aligned to the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) in the Maxfield Avenue area of Whitfield Town are being paid up to $100,000 per day to join in the.... resistance to the security forces' attempt to arrest Tivoli Gardens strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke." This has frightening implications: If Coke can hire more criminals, and if the anti-government sentiment is flamed, this bad situation could become much worse. AFP reports that his supporters say Coke "is a local hero for helping residents pay bills, and even send children to school. Coke himself says he is merely a businessman. His supporters have stockpiled arms, attacked police and set up barricades around Tivoli Gardens, which is also the parliamentary district of Prime Minister Bruce Golding." The U.S. Dept. of State has warned Jamaican officials that "The possibility exists that unrest could spread beyond the general Kingston area." The State Dept. also warns travelers to avoid Kingston and surrounding areas. Jamaica's Ministry of National Security issued a statement on May 24: This Joint Military/Police operation is aimed at executing a warrant issued by the Courts of Jamaica for the arrest of Michael Christopher Coke otherwise called "Dudus" as well as to restore the area to stability after three consecutive days of barricading by criminal elements and wanton attacks on the police force. Full Statement... MiamiNewTimes reports that Dudus "has turned a Kingston slum into his own personal bunker to avoid extradition to the U.S, has forced his country into a state of emergency. To local law-enforcement officials, the situation appears all too familiar. Coke's ultra-violent cartel, called 'The Shower Posse' for its members tendency to indiscriminately shower enemies and bystanders alike, seized South Florida in the late-'80s."

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