Fears grow for Jamaican civilians

2010-05-27 17:21

Kingston - Jamaican forces late on Wednesday claimed control of a slum in an offensive to capture an alleged drug kingpin, but fears mounted for civilians with officials saying at least 44 were killed.

Calm returned to much of the capital Kingston after a three-day assault, but bullets and the occasional body littered impoverished areas where soldiers systematically searched and detained those who dared pass through.

Authorities said they had seized more than 500 people but not the man they were seeking - local don Christopher "Dudus" Coke, who has set up a virtual mini-economy in slums a world away from Jamaica's famous beaches.

Information Minister Daryl Vaz said Coke's whereabouts were unclear and declined to comment even on whether authorities were certain he was still in Jamaica.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding ordered an assault to capture Coke on Sunday after months of hesitation on an extradition request from the United States, which accuses Coke's "Shower Posse" of funneling drugs to the US East Coast.

Golding has pledged to undo Kingston's reputation as one of the world's murder capitals but also ordered an inspection of conditions amid fears of a heavy toll on bystanders.

The public defender, Earl Witter, and ombudsman, Hero Blair, said they counted the bodies of 44 civilians after a tour of Coke's Tivoli Gardens stronghold.

Police had said on Tuesday that 26 residents and one soldier were killed in the operation, though hospital staff spoke of dozens of bodies coming in.

Worst violence

Police have also reported the deaths of two policemen and several civilians in other parts of Kingston.

Vaz, the information minister, said that downtown businesses near the slum area would reopen on Thursday but schools would remain closed.

Police spokesperson Karl Angell said security forces had seized control over all tall buildings in the area but were combing door to door to search for wanted criminals.

Some of the worst violence has taken place near the original headquarters of Studio One, among Kingston's most influential labels that has put out recordings by reggae legends Bob Marley and Lee "Scratch" Perry.

Near the studio's padlocked door, a resident urged bystanders to get away.

"Calm here now, but gunfire here, gunfire there," he said, pointing in all directions.

The line between civilians and combatants has become blurry in the Tivoli Gardens violence. Some describe the gunmen as a citizens' militia that enforces security in the neighborhood and, above all else, protects Coke.

But the violence-torn area also has the ear of political leaders. Both Golding and Kingston's mayor, Desmond McKenzie, represent Tivoli Gardens in elected office and Coke has supported their Jamaica Labour Party in the past.

McKenzie said he traveled to the affected area overnight and heard accusations of "harassment" by security forces, including indiscriminate shootings and destruction of personal property.

Bold steps

"These people have rights, too," McKenzie said on Jamaican television.

"They are hungry. A lot have not had a proper meal since Sunday.

"What is on my mind is trying to get some comfort to them. I know the community is hurting and is upset with us," he added. "It is going to take us some time to rebuild that trust and rebuild the confidence."

The Jamaican Red Cross, which accompanied officials on the earlier tour of Tivoli Gardens, said it would deliver food into the area to meet residents' needs.

But in a sign of humanitarian fears, the health ministry appealed for blood donations. The ministry said supplies were at "critically low levels", but explained this was partially due to disruptions at hospitals rather than an urgent need for blood.

The United States has staunchly supported the crackdown and refused to criticise Golding, whom the opposition charges could have moved in months ago to seize erstwhile supporter Coke and avert the crisis.

In Washington, State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley praised the "bold steps" by Jamaica.

"We certainly support the efforts of the government of Jamaica to strengthen the rule of law and arrest Christopher Coke," Crowley said.

Read more on:    jamaica
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

 

Inside News24

 
 

Fewer high-risk election areas - Mthethwa

There are fewer high-risk election areas this year compared to past elections, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has said while visiting Manenberg in Cape Town.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Watch what happened when we blindfolded Helen Zille and asked her to eat random things
13 days to elections - news you need to know
11 Julius Malema quotes you'll never forget
DA won't get 30% - Zille
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Friday Stellenbosch - 07:57 AM
    Road name: R304 Southbound
    DELAYS between Bottelary Road and central Stellenbosch
  • Friday Brackenfell - 07:54 AM
    Road name: N1 Outbound
    DELAYS between the R300 Highway and the Brackenfell Boulevard exit
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Mother’s Day special offers!

Spoil mom with these awesome specials that will warm her heart. Shop now!

Twisp – the smoking alternative

Buy any 2 refills for R250 and save R149. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Mother’s Day specials on appliances

Browse our range of Mother’s Day appliances to spoil and pamper mom. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Canon EOS 600D

The Canon EOS 600D Digital Camera puts the widely respected...

From R5389.95

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Treat yourself to something beautiful. You tend to put so much energy in making everything around you work harmoniously, and...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.