Soldiers and police stormed a Kingston slum on Monday and traded gunfire with supporters of an alleged Jamaican drug lord who faces extradition to the United States.
At least four people have been killed, including two policemen, one soldier and a civilian, and several others were wounded in two days of violence.
The government declared a state of emergency on Sunday in volatile sections of the capital as Prime Minister Bruce Golding vowed “strong and decisive action” to restore order.
The limited emergency in Jamaica, a popular Caribbean tourism destination, covered districts where gunmen shot up or set fire to five police stations and carried out carjackings and looting on Sunday.
There were unconfirmed reports of additional civilian deaths and reports that military helicopters dropped explosives on the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood of West Kingston where alleged drug lord Christopher “Dudus” Coke is believed to be hiding out.
The government has called on Coke to surrender to face a U.S. judicial request seeking his extradition on cocaine trafficking and gun-running charges.
U.S. prosecutors have described Coke as the leader of the “Shower Posse,” which murdered hundreds of people by showering them with bullets during the cocaine wars of the 1980s.
Helmeted police in flak jackets and brandishing automatic assault rifles fought their way into Tivoli Gardens on Monday and were engaged in a gunfight with suspected allies of Coke.
Residents had temporarily held them off with makeshift barricades while masked gunmen opened fire on them from high-rise buildings overlooking the barricades, which closed off main streets leading into the area.
Officials said the violence has had no impact so far on the island’s bauxite, sugar and banana producing sectors.
The normally bustling streets were mostly deserted, as the country marked its Labor Day national holiday and motorists and passersby steered clear of the trouble spot.
The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert warning of violence in Kingston before the weekend, as tensions rose after Golding said he was starting proceedings to extradite Coke.
Golding said on Sunday the state of emergency would remain in effect for a month and would demonstrate that Jamaica is “a land of peace, order and security” where gang-related violence will not be tolerated.
“This will be a turning point for us as a nation to confront the powers of evil that has penalized the society and earned us the unenviable label as one of the murder capitals of the world,” he said.
The United States requested Coke’s extradition in August last year but Jamaica initially refused, alleging that evidence against Coke had been gathered through illegal wiretaps.
In its annual narcotics control strategy report in March, the State Department said Coke’s well-known ties to Jamaica’s ruling party highlighted “the potential depth of corruption in the government.”
(Editing by Jane Sutton)