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Unrest spreads in Jamaica over attempts to extradite drug suspect

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Unrest in Jamaica over alleged drug lord
  • NEW: People killed in assault on stronghold of suspected drug kingpin, police say
  • Residents block roads to restrict access to police and military, mainly in West Kingston
  • Unrest revolves around U.S. attempts to extradite suspected drug kingpin
  • Accused kingpin's attorney says client should face charges in Jamaican courts

Kingston, Jamaica (CNN) -- Violence in Jamaica surrounding the planned extradition to the United States of an alleged drug kingpin continued Monday, with police saying a number of people had died in an attack on the suspect's stronghold in West Kingston.

Police would not divulge the number of casualties.

The unrest revolves around U.S. attempts to extradite suspected drug kingpin Christopher "Dudus" Coke, who was charged last year in federal court with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and cocaine and with conspiracy to illegally traffic in firearms.

Residents said government helicopters dropped explosives into the area near Coke's stronghold, though it was not clear whether he was there.

Experts: Accused Jamaican drug lord akin to Robin Hood

The attack came after residents blocked roads in the area to restrict access to police and military. The violence then spread to Spanish Town, about 20 minutes outside the capital, where armed thugs blocked a major road and a bridge that serves as a link between Montego Bay and Kingston, police said.

Looting occurred in downtown Kingston.

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Monday's unrest came the day after two police officers were killed and six others were wounded in shooting late Sunday near Norman Manley International Airport, just outside Kingston, police said.

The airport's main entrance remained open, and flights were arriving and departing on schedule, said Paul Hall, senior vice president for operations at the Airports Authority of Jamaica.

Coke's whereabouts were not made public.

His attorneys were to meet with the charge d'affaires officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston.

Coke's attorney Don Foote said he will listen to U.S. authorities but insisted that his client should face any charges in Jamaican courts.

On Friday, Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding said citizens should "allow the courts to deal with the extradition matter," the state-run Jamaica Information Service reported.

In a statement Sunday afternoon, Golding announced an emergency meeting of his Cabinet in response to the heavy gunfire and blockades, the Jamaica Information Service said.

A state of emergency extended to the St. Andrew section of Kingston, according to the information agency.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Monday that officials were watching the situation carefully. He said the U.S. Embassy was closed Monday, which is a holiday in Jamaica, and would reopen Tuesday with limited service.

"We continue to work with the government of Jamaica collaboratively to counter illicit trafficking," he said.

Coke was charged in August by the U.S. attorney's office in New York, which accused him of leading an international criminal syndicate known as the Shower Posse.

"At Coke's direction and under his protection, members of his criminal organization sell marijuana and crack cocaine in the New York area and elsewhere, and send the narcotics proceeds back to Coke and his co-conspirators," the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency said in a release accompanying the charges.

"Coke and his co-conspirators also arm their organization with illegally trafficked firearms," the DEA said in a statement at the time.

Coke is on the Justice Department's list of Consolidated Priority Organization Targets, which the department says "includes the world's most dangerous narcotics kingpins."

The State Department issued a travel alert for Jamaica on Friday.

Journalist Kirk Abrahams contributed to this report.