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Jamaica 'drug lord' eludes capture
Whereabouts of alleged drug kingpin still unknown as security forces continue hunt.
Last Modified: 28 May 2010 04:12 GMT


Al Jazeera's Sebastian Walker reports on the Jamaican government's crackdown in Kingston

Jamaican security forces have claimed control of an alleged drug kingpin's slum stronghold after days of fighting, but say they have no idea of the whereabouts of the wanted man.

Authorities said on Wednesday that they had control over all tall buildings in the area, and were conducting door-to-door raids in search of Christopher "Dudus" Coke and his armed supporters.

But after days of fierce battles between security forces and Coke's followers, authorities have been unable to capture him and have refused to confirm that he is even still in the country.

The violence turned parts of Kingston, the Jamaican capital, into a virtual warzone, with bodies littering the streets of the Tivoli Gardens slum in the west of the city.

Owen Ellington, Jamaica's police commissioner, said "scores of criminals" from drug gangs across the island had joined the fighting.

Bishop Hero Blair, the country's official ombudsman, said independent evaluations put the number of civilian dead at 44 in West Kingston alone, and the death toll is likely to rise. 

Civilians in crossfire

Al Jazeera's Sebastian Walker said the fighting had left many residents trapped in their houses.

In Depth

 

  Profile: Christopher "Dudus" Coke
  Island of music and murder
  Jamaica drug gangs 'call shots'

"[Authorities] are trying to get food and supplies into most places, where residents have been pretty much holed up in their houses since the fighting started on Sunday."

He said that there was no sign of Coke, who is wanted by the US.

"There are concerns the man who is wanted by authorities has actually [left] that area. There is a lot of confusion as to where he is right now and about the focus of police operations."

Elon Parkinson, a presenter on Jamaica's 90 FM radio station, told Al Jazeera that the violence may make it harder to capture the kingpin.

"Coke's [supporters] indicated to us ... that any deal between the US and Jamaican authorities would be almost impossible, especially with the way the onslaught is taking place," he said.

Coke is wanted by the US on charges of illegal drug and arms trafficking [AFP] 

Tensions in Jamaica rose over the last week after Bruce Golding, the Jamaican prime minister, reversed his long-standing refusal to extradite Coke to the US.

Golding had previously stalled the case for nine months claiming the US indictment relied on illegal wiretap evidence, but he changed his stance amid a growing public outcry over his stand.

US prosecutors describe Coke as the leader of the "Shower Posse" that murdered hundreds of people during the cocaine wars of the 1980s.

Relations between Jamaica and the US grew strained when Jamaica ignored an earlier extradition request for Coke, who is a supporter of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party and wields influence in the inner city constituency that Golding represents.

The US state department said on Monday it was "the responsibility of the Jamaican government to locate and arrest Mr Coke".

The drug trade is deeply entrenched in Jamaica. The island is the largest producer of marijuana in the Caribbean region. Gangs tied to the trade have become powerful organised-crime networks involved in international gun smuggling.

The drug trade has also fuelled one of the world's highest murder rates, with Jamaica experiencing about 1,660 homicides last year among a population of just 2.8 million people.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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