'Dudus' still here

Commish says West Kingston fugitive will be caught

BY KARYL WALKER Online News Editor walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, May 29, 2010

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POLICE say they have intelligence that West Kingston fugitive Christopher 'Dudus' Coke is still in Jamaica, despite rumours that he has fled the island.

Speaking at a press conference at Up Park Camp, the Jamaica Defence Force headquarters in Kingston, yesterday Police Commissioner Owen Ellington seemed confident that his intelligence was on point.

"The latest intelligence we have is that Coke is still in the jurisdiction," Ellington said. "He is now on the run and we will catch him, we will execute that warrant and he will face justice. The difference with Coke is that he and persons loyal to him believe that he is above the law. He believes that he should not be arrested in Jamaica and he should not face trial for crimes he has committed in a foreign country."

Jamaica has been on tenterhooks since Prime Minister Bruce Golding -- in a televised apology for his handling of the matter -- announced on May 17 that the authority to begin extradition proceedings against Coke would be signed.

Coke is wanted by the US to face arms- and drug-trafficking charges.

On Monday, a joint police/military team launched a major offensive against a militia loyal to the embattled don. They had mounted booby-trapped barricades at all entrances to his Tivoli Gardens base and had started shooting at police who had tried to clear the blockades. They also torched two police stations and the Coronation Market in downtown Kingston.

The security forces say Coke's militia was very well-organised and mounted stout defence against their efforts to stabilise the notorious stronghold.

"They were very well-organised, they knew what they were doing. We encountered very sophisticated defensive layouts. The resistance was fierce and lasted for about 12 hours," Colonel Rocky Meade, head of communications of the Jamaica Defence Force, said.

The soldiers showed journalists a slide show and video footage of improved explosive devices rigged to barricades, plastic explosives, shrapnel, rifles and handguns recovered, men walking freely with firearms and using binoculars from high-rise buildings in the community.

The soldiers also found that the explosive devices were attached by wires to remote devices which led to houses in the community.

One photograph showed the sprawled body of a man who was posted at one of the remote controls. He was taken out by a JDF sniper before he could press the button which would have exploded the bomb.

Photographs were also shown of a closed circuit television which monitored all the entrances into Tivoli Gardens. The device was found inside Coke's Presidential Click office.

The security forces also said they found large amounts of local and foreign currency in the office.

Underground tunnels and sewage mains were also found by the security forces.

The police now have about 500 men in custody at the National Arena and according to Ellington, five of the men have so far been charged while some 20 others have been detained.

He also revealed that some of the men in custody were not residents of Tivoli Gardens and were being processed to find out if they were wanted by police in other divisions. The men, he said, were most likely members of other criminal networks from across the island who had gone into Tivoli Gardens to lend support to Coke.

"They gave false names and they have no address in Tivoli Gardens," he told the Observer.

Ellington also said that some of the men who died in the firefight were dressed like females at the time they were killed.

The commissioner also informed reporters that all the juveniles who were taken into custody were released on Thursday night. Most had returned to their community while a small minority expressed the wish to go elsewhere, he said.

The police also emphasised that they have not interred any bodies and said the badly decomposed corpses which were slated to be buried in the May Pen cemetery have been removed to a facility with the capability to store them until they are properly identified.

Post-mortem examinations will be conducted on the 73 persons killed by the security forces on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week and the photographs of the dead persons will be posted on a billboard in Tivoli Gardens.

There were two women among the dead, one of whom -- based on the state of decomposition of the body -- appeared to have been killed before the offensive started.

The security team has so far recovered 22 illegal weapons, 8,000 rounds of ammunition, police and military outfits and other military paraphernalia.

Three members of the security forces were killed while 58 (30 soldiers and 28 cops) were injured during the offensive.

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