Trouble began earlier this week in Kingston after the government approved a US extradition request for Christopher "Dudus" Coke, a reputed gang boss. Police were shot and killed, retreating from police stations set on fire by supporters of Dudus.
Masked men torched a police station and traded gunfire with security forces in a barricaded slum in Jamaica's capital Sunday, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency.
Sporadic gunshots were heard throughout West Kingston as supporters of Christopher "Dudus" Coke, a Jamaican drug lord suspected of controlling gunmen in the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood, have transformed the area into a virtual fortress cut off by trashed cars and barbed wire. In barricaded Hannah Town, close to Tivoli Gardens, black smoke spiraled into the sky from a police station set aflame by Molotov cocktails.
Coke is described as one of the world's most dangerous drug lords by the U.S. Justice Department.
Department of Justice
Drug Kingpin Christopher "Dudus" Coke.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney has charged Jamaica-Based Drug Kingpin with Narcotics and Firearms Trafficking Crimes ( See the news release and extradition order request.)
The US State Department on Friday issued a travel warning urging US citizens to weigh the risks of travelling to and within the Kingston metropolitan area.
"The possibility exists for violence and/or civil unrest in the greater Kingston metropolitan area," the State Department said.
Text from the Video of Prime Ministers announcement of the State of Emergency.
Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, has assured that the threats that have emerged against the safety of the Jamaican people will be driven back, with strong and decisive action by the country's security forces.
courtesy Jamaica News Media
Jamaican police in street battles with supporters of drug lord Christopher Dudus Coke
In a broadcast to the nation tonight (May 23), Mr. Golding appealed to all law-abiding citizens to remain calm and support the measures that have been implemented under the state of public emergency for the Corporate Area, as of 6 pm.
He emphasized that "the city is not being shut down", that people can move about freely and that schools will be in full session on Tuesday.
"I appeal to all law-abiding citizens to remain calm and support these necessary measures. My government is determined that Jamaica must be a land of peace, order and security," Mr. Golding stated.
Based on information from the security forces that actions were being carried out, which pose significant threats to law and order in the Corporate Area, Cabinet today advised the Governor-General to issue a proclamation declaring the State of emergency.
"Since this morning, violent, orchestrated attacks have been launched on a number of police stations. Two members of the security forces have been shot and injured," Mr. Golding noted, describing the situation as "a calculated assault on the authority of the state that cannot be tolerated, and will not be allowed to continue".
He explained that the State of Emergency will enable the security forces to exercise extraordinary powers.
Jamaica News Media
Jamaican Prime Minister declares State of Emergency
"These (powers) include the power to restrict the freedom of movement, search premises and detain persons suspected of involvement in unlawful activities without warrant," the Prime Minister explained.
"The security forces have been instructed to observe and respect the rights of citizens to go about their lawful business...there will be some inconvenience as the security forces intensify their surveillance and efforts to ferret out the criminals and return the Corporate Area to a state of calm," Mr. Golding outlined.
He stressed that this will be a turning point for the nation to confront the evil that has penalised the society with "determination and unqualified resolve".
The state of emergency will be effective for one month, unless it is revoked or extended by the House of Representatives.
See more Live on the scene video BBC-1, BBC-2, Jamaica Prime Minister State of Emergency television and radio announcement.
Related story: Jamaican drug war continues with firefight on the streets against Coke's Shower Posse.