At least 73 people died this week as Jamaican security forces stormed a Kingston slum and battled armed supporters of an alleged drug lord wanted for extradition to the United States, police said on Thursday.
Residents complained of abuse and rights groups questioned whether police and soldiers had used excessive and indiscriminate force.
Most deaths occurred during an assault by police and army troops on Tivoli Gardens, a volatile Kingston slum and bastion of support for suspected drug kingpin Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, Deputy Police Commissioner Glenmore Hinds told reporters.
Coke was still at large. Tension gripped the upper middle class community of Kirkland Heights early on Thursday when word came that he was hiding there in a house owned by a friend.
Police stormed the area and a two-hour firefight broke out. Keith Clarke, the 58-year-old brother of former Minister of Industry and Commerce Claude Clarke, was killed by security personnel, apparently caught in the crossfire.
The violence in the capital started on Sunday as Coke’s supporters torched police stations to protest his potential extradition to the United States. He was indicted last year in New York on drug trafficking and gunrunning charges.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding declared a state of emergency, giving security forces broad powers to restrict freedom of movement, search premises and detain suspects without warrants.
Four of the dead were police and soldiers. The rest were civilians, mostly young men.
Many people said they were hungry and had not been allowed to leave their homes to buy food. Others were angry at the prime minister, who is also their member of Parliament.