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Jamaica declares emergency in capital after attacks

KINGSTON (Reuters) - Jamaica declared a state of emergency in two parishes of its capital Kingston on Sunday after shooting and firebomb attacks on police stations by suspected supporters of an alleged drug lord who faces extradition to the United States.

“A state of public emergency, limited to the parishes of Kingston and St. Andrew, has been declared and will come into effect at 6:00 p.m. (2300 GMT) today,” the government’s Jamaica Information Service (JIS) said.

The limited emergency in the popular Caribbean tourist destination covered districts of the capital where gunmen on Sunday fired on two police stations and set fire to another. At least one policemen was injured.

The attackers were suspected supporters of Christopher “Dudus” Coke whom the government has called on to surrender to face a U.S. extradition request on cocaine trafficking and gun-running charges.

Streets into the poor Tivoli Gardens area of West Kingston, where Coke is believed to be hiding, were barricaded on Sunday in defiance of a police call for Coke to hand himself over, witnesses said.

The U.S. Department of State has issued a travel alert warning its citizens of the possibility of violence in Jamaica’s Kingston Metropolitan area.

Tensions in Jamaica rose over the last week after Prime Minister Bruce Golding announced he was starting proceedings to extradite Coke. U.S. prosecutors describe Coke as the leader of the infamous “Shower Posse” that murdered hundreds of people during the cocaine wars of the 1980s.

Relations between Jamaica and the United States grew strained when Jamaica initially spurned a 2009 extradition request for Coke, who is a supporter of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party and wields influence in the volatile inner city constituency that Golding represents.


The violence comes as the government is moving ahead with an International Monetary Fund loan program.

The IMF in February finalized a $1.27 billion loan for Jamaica, its first loan from the fund in 15 years, to help the Caribbean nation address deep-rooted weaknesses in its economy and make it less vulnerable to economic shocks, such as last year’s financial crisis.

The United States requested Coke’s extradition in August 2009 but Jamaica initially refused, alleging that U.S. evidence against him had been gathered through illegal wiretaps.

In its annual narcotics control strategy report in March, the U.S. State Department said Coke’s ties to Jamaica’s ruling party “highlights the potential depth of corruption in the government.”

Golding acknowledged in parliament earlier this month that he had been aware that his party hired a U.S. law firm to lobby the Obama administration against pursuing Coke’s extradition.

He had initially denied knowledge of the hiring but later said he had sanctioned it in his capacity as leader of the ruling party and not as prime minister.

The admission prompted demands for the resignation of Golding, who is midway through a five-year term.

Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Cynthia Osterman