Gun battles in Kingston, Jamaica have killed at least 31 people in the last three days as heavily armed security forces have clashed with supporters of alleged drug kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke. The violence, which erupted Friday, was sparked by Jamaican officials’ receipt of a request by the U.S. government to extradite Mr. Coke on drug trafficking charges.
Mr. Coke, who heads a consulting company that has earned lucrative government contracts, is also believed to control cocaine and marijuana trafficking operations in U.S. cities. Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who observers claim used Mr. Coke’s influence to win votes in west Kingston neighborhoods, had originally resisted the extradition request but recently decided to comply.
Jamaica is legally obligated to extradite Mr. Coke under an extradition treaty signed in 1984. The gang violence that has emerged from the drug trade is largely responsible for Jamaica’s high murder rates. The island nation with a population of only 2.8 million recorded 1,660 homicides in 2009 alone.