Canadian travellers are being advised not to visit Kingston, Jamaica, after at least three people were killed in an outbreak of violence by suspected supporters of an alleged drug lord who faces extradition to the United States.
Heavily armed police patrolled the Jamaican capital Monday, a day after the government declared a state of emergency in parts of Kingston, and Prime Minister Bruce Golding vowed “strong and decisive action” to restore order.
“We must confront this criminal element with determination and unqualified resolve,” Golding said. The state of emergency covered districts of the capital where gunmen shot up or set fire to five police stations Sunday. Security force officials said at least two policemen and one civilian were killed and seven police officers wounded in the attacks, which were reportedly accompanied by sporadic looting and carjackings.
The assailants were suspected supporters of Christopher “Dudus” Coke. The government has called on him 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 infamous Shower Posse gang that murdered hundreds of people during the cocaine wars of the 1980s. It’s said to be responsible for at least 1,400 murders in the States. The gang is also said to have ties in Toronto going back 15 years, bringing in cocaine via Jamaica and Panama.
Jamaican police patrolled streets Monday around the poor Tivoli Gardens area of West Kingston, where Coke is believed to be hiding.
On Sunday, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada issued a travel advisory for Kingston and surrounding neighbourhoods, warning Canadians to avoid non-essential travel. The advisory said parts of the Jamaican capital have seen “significant upsurges in violence.”
In his nationwide address on Sunday, Golding said 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.
The United States requested Coke’s extradition in August 2009 but Jamaica initially refused, fueling bilateral tensions as it alleged that evidence against Coke had been gathered through illegal wiretaps. The Shower Posse is so named, allegedly because of the tendency of their gunmen to spray victims in a shower of bullets.
Earlier this month, Toronto police conducted Project Corral, a massive gang sweep in northwest Toronto. Over 70 people were arrested, a dozen of them said to be Shower Posse members.
At that time, police identified two alleged Shower Posse leaders living in Toronto: Courtney Ottey, previously charged with participating in a criminal organization, and Derrick Smith, said to be a key firearms and drug supplier.
Shower Posse members don’t necessarily look or behave like their client gangs, Toronto Staff Insp. Mike Earl has said. “They’re very sophisticated. They’re very smart,” he said. “It’s not like they’re going to be wearing colours or you’re going to run into them on a day-to-day basis. They don’t wear do-rags.”
They also appear to be unafraid of law enforcement.
“I don’t think they’ve been touched before. They themselves believe they’re untou