Jamaican security forces on Monday raided the stronghold of a powerful alleged drug kingpin wanted by the United States, causing casualties as the island’s crisis caused growing alarm. Backed by troops and loud helicopters, police stormed an impoverished neighborhood of western Kingston where reputed gang leader Christopher “Dudus” Coke is holed up, a day after the government declared a state of emergency.
“Somebody please come help we, somebody please come help we,” a woman said on local radio from the Tivoli Gardens area. She said a girl was killed, while witnesses also reported unspecified casualties among security forces. Police advised people to remain indoors in Kingston, where Coke’s supporters erected barricades to protect him. Power was cut off overnight. Coke enjoys popular support among some Kingston residents who see him as a sort of local Robin Hood, helping impoverished Jamaicans.
But Coke is also wanted by the United States, where the Department of Justice lists him among the “world’s most dangerous narcotics kingpins.” He is accused since the 1990s of leading an international gang known as “The Shower Posse,” which US prosecutors say sells marijuana and crack cocaine in the New York area and elsewhere.
He was formally charged in the United States in August with conspiracy to traffic drugs in Jamaica has long been a transit point for drug trafficking, but the United States until recently had hailed the government’s response.
But the US has recently questioned Jamaica, alleging Coke was protected by ties to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party. rugs and illegal weapons, and if convicted faces mandatory life imprisonment. But to Kingston residents, Coke is more like a godfather. Thousands marched through the city Thursday chanting, “Leave Dudus alone, leave Dudus alone.” “He is next to God,” one demonstrator said. “Just like how Jesus died on the cross for us, we are willing to die for Dudus,” said another.