, KINGSTON, May 24 – Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding vowed a tough response to armed gangs behind a frenzy of violence in the capital Kingston, saying criminals "will not be allowed to triumph."
His warning came after a state of emergency was imposed and people were urged to leave the city\’s roughest neighbourhoods, as police clashed with armed gangs over the possible extradition of a drug suspect to the United States.
"The criminal element who have placed the society under siege will not be allowed to triumph," Golding said late Sunday in an address to the nation.
Golding said the state of emergency "will be a turning point for us as a nation to confront the powers of evil that have penalized the society and earned us the unenviable label as one of the murder capitals of the world.
"We must confront this criminal element with determination and unqualified resolve," he said.
A police officer and a civilian were wounded by gunfire in street clashes and three police stations came under attack, police said. One police station was set ablaze after police abandoned it having run out of bullets, they added.
Police charged that gunmen from various communities across this Caribbean country of 2.8 million had joined forces with criminal elements in Tivoli Gardens in a bid to protect reputed gang leader, Christopher "Dudus" Coke.
Sections of Kingston have been under siege as armed thugs roamed the city taking on police officers who attempted to clear road blocks that were popping up at various points.
Four police stations came under gunfire on Sunday, one of which was burned to the ground, forcing police to evacuate it.
At least one man has been reported dead after he was shot in a van in front of one of the police stations, Fletcher\’s Land, which came under sustained gunfire.
A police officer was also shot in the hand while a patrol car, which was fired on to force its occupants to run for cover, was stolen.
Police said criminal gangs have stockpiled a large cache of weapons in the area, including big-gauge rifles, all apparently to protect Coke and stop his extradition to the United States on drug and gun trafficking charges that could put him away for life.
"The threats that have emerged to the safety and security of our people will be repelled with strong and decisive action," Golding promised in his address.
"Tonight, I appeal to all law-abiding citizens to remain calm and support these necessary measures," he said. "My government is determined that Jamaica must be a land of peace, order and security, without this we will never achieve the happiness and prosperity that we seek".
The state of emergency was slapped on Kingston and St. Andrew after Golding held an emergency meeting of his cabinet earlier Sunday. It came into effect at 2300 GMT and will last for at least a month.
Coke, 42, is the reputed leader of the Shower Posse gang with branches all over the United States.
He also heads the Tivoli Gardens community, which Prime Minister Golding represents in the Jamaican Parliament.
The United States accuses Shower Posse members, under Coke\’s direction, of having sold marijuana and crack cocaine in New York City and other areas of the United States, funnelling profits back to him.