An All out war! As Tivoli assault deepens, casualties rise
Soldiers and police yesterday launched a bloody offensive on Tivoli Gardens where heavily armed thugs barricaded themselves to protect the mini-republic of a reputed crime overlord, causing street battles to ripple across Jamaica's capital.
At least three members of the security forces have been killed in the gunfights and 14 others injured in two days of wide-scale violence that has swept western Kingston and other areas where rogue alliances exist.
The Constabulary Communication Network reported, last night, that seven more law enforcement personnel were injured in the latest phase of operations. Unfortunately one of the seven died, That fatality was a soldier of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).
An undetermined number of civilians have been killed, with many of those believed to be among the gunmen who had engaged the security forces in fierce gun battles. A source at Kingston Public Hospital said 23 persons had been admitted with gunshot wounds and three dead bodies delivered.
But other areas, including the Fletcher's Land neighbourhood, Denham Town, East Queen Street in the vicinity of the Central Police Station, and sections of Hannah Town also saw major gun battles. It was about mid-morning when gunmen attempted to storm the Central Police Station, the order was issued for the police and soldiers to use deadly force to repel the criminals. A short while later, a massive deployment from the JDF was seen on Harbour Street with soldiers taking up strategic positions. "Time to take back the streets," said a motorist as he drove past the JDF team. And that was obviously the intention of the security forces.
People ran for cover, even those several meters away, as the sound of high-powered weap-
ons rocked buildings in west Kingston. The police and soldiers sealed the entrances and exits
to Tivoli Gardens, Denham Town and Hannah Town, barring all non-essential personnel.
From every possible vantage point, reporters struggled to get a peek at the firefight but most
had to make do with a look at the thick, black smoke which billowed from inside the battle-
ground, reportedly coming from the Coronation Market which had been set ablaze.
Residence on Crooks Street and in Whitfield Town in the western end of the city were also
Three persons were injured in the fire that destroyed two homes in Whitfield Town, but no
one sustained fire-related injuries at Crooks Street while the firefighters were unable to res-
pond to the blaze at Coronation Market, Jamaica's main market, because of the wicked
stand-off in the area. Two by-standers were reportedly shot in the area.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding Under Pressure
The government has finally decided to send the extradition request for west Kingston strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke to the courts as Prime Minister Bruce Golding struggles to get back into the good graces of Jamaicans. Under pressure from a wide cross section of the society, Golding last night faced the country with an apology over the Manatt affair and a promised that the justice minister, Dorothy Light- bourne, would sign the extradition request despite claims by his administration that the United States breached the rules of engagement.
Golding pleaded with his critics to back off on the calls for his resignation as he accepted that he had done wrong. "I am aware that trust can only be restored by forgiveness and atonement. That will take time, and I am committing myself to do everything that is humanly possible to repair the damage that has been done to that trust. In return, I ask for your forgiveness." "In hindsight, the party should never have become involved in the way that it did and I should never have allowed it, but I must accept responsibility for it and express my remorse to the nation," Golding said in his national broadcast last night.
Mr. Golding goes on to say that the Government has never refused the request for the extradition of Christopher Coke, It has only simply asked the United States authorities to provide additional information that would enable the minister to issue the authorisation in
compliance with the terms of the treaty. As a result the day's activity in the government schools and work places in Western Kingston were closed at mid-day yesterday, as the country is bracing for a war to break out in that erea.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding
Hundreds of lawmen were yesterday hunting alleged drug kingpin Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, who is wanted in the United States to answer to drug and gun charges. There have been no reports whether Coke was nabbed or killed in the assault. The security forces decided yesterday that the time to appeal to Coke supporters to clear the many barricades they had erected had expired. But the armed thugs were not prepared to surrender, and police and soldiers had to take back the streets - barricade by barricade, block by block.
For most of the day, the sound of gunfire echoed across the south-eastern city where commercial activity had come to a standstill.
'Ground zero' was the area around Tivoli Gardens stretching from Darling Street in the east, Industrial Terrace in the west, Spanish Town Road to the north and Marcus Garvey Drive in the south.