Jamaica issues state of emergency in Kingston
The Jamaican government declared a state of emergency in two parts of its capital Sunday after attacks on three police stations by supporters of an alleged drug lord who faces extradition to the United States.
The declaration covered the West Kingston and St. Andrew districts of Kingston where a shooting and a firebombing involving the stations occurred.
The attackers were suspected supporters of Christopher (Dudus) Coke, a Jamaican don whom Jamaican officials are seeking to extradite. He is widely suspected of controlling gunmen in West Kingston's Tivoli Gardens.
Police in Kingston urged Coke, who is wanted in the U.S. on drug and arms-trafficking charges, to surrender Sunday.
Defiant followers have transformed Coke's stronghold in West Kingston into a virtual fortress cut off by trashed cars and barbed wire.
So far, violence has been sporadic in the impoverished community, where a 2001 standoff between gunmen and security forces tracking down fugitives killed 25 civilians, as well as a soldier and a constable.
Coke is described as one of the world's most dangerous drug lords by the U.S. Justice Department. He has ties of loyalty to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party and holds significant sway over the West Kingston area represented in Parliament by Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who stalled the extradition request regarding Coke for months with claims that the U.S. indictment relied on illegal wiretap evidence.
Golding's fight against the extradition strained relations with Washington, which questioned Jamaica's reliability as an ally in the fight against drugs. His handling of the matter, particularly his hiring of a U.S. firm to lobby Washington to drop the request, provoked an outcry that threatened his political career.
A week ago, Golding reversed his refusal to extradite Coke to the U.S.
Coke, who typically avoids the limelight, has remained silent. He faces life in prison if convicted on charges filed against him in New York.