Accused Jamaican drug lord is deeply connected

Christopher "Dudus" Coke is seen in this image released by Jamaican police.

Fierce fighting between Jamaican security forces and gunmen trying to protect a powerful gang leader extended into a third day Tuesday in Kingston, highlighting a convoluted political system in which Jamaican politicians and crime bosses often team up to share power.

The police on Tuesday provided their first account of the civilian toll of the fighting: 26 have been killed and 25 wounded. The government said that three police officers and soldiers had been killed, along with a security official.

The conflict, which prompted the government to declare a state of emergency over the weekend, pits supporters of Christopher Coke, wanted in the United States on gun and drug charges, against Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who has relied on Coke’s influence to win votes in the west Kingston neighborhood that both men share.

Golding had initially fought an attempt by the United States to extradite Coke, whose support has been critical for the governing party in the past, to New York. But when criticism grew both at home and abroad and his government hung in the balance, Golding backed down and agreed to send Coke, one of the island’s most notorious crime bosses, to face the charges against him.

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