State of emergency in Jamaican capital

Jamaican police fought armed gangs trying to block arrest of a gang leader.

Updated: May 24, 2010, 09:34 AM IST

Kingston: Jamaican authorities said they were putting Kingston and surrounding areas under a state of emergency as police fought armed gangs trying to block the arrest of a reputed gang leader sought for possible extradition 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 on fire after police abandoned it having run out of bullets, they added.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding held an emergency meeting with his cabinet yesterday and issued a State of Emergency for Kingston and St Andrew, took effect at 6:00 pm (local time) in this Caribbean nation of about 2.8 million.

The government said the state of emergency will last for at least a month.

Trouble began earlier this week in Kingston after the government approved a US extradition request for Christopher "Dudus" Coke, a reputed gang boss and community leader in the Tivoli Gardens district 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.

Golding on Friday made a public appeal for calm and called for the barricades to come down so police could carry out their duty and arrest Coke.

The barricades did not come down and on Saturday, amid reports police were preparing to enter Tivoli -- one of Jamaica`s most dangerous neighbourhoods which Golding represents in Parliament, the streets were deserted as locals stayed indoors fearing an outburst of violence.

The United States warned travellers of possible civil unrest in the Jamaican capital.

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, funnelling profits back to him.

But for local Kingston residents, Coke is more like a godfather.