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Jamaica Leader Vows To Restore Order After Drug Battles Kill At Least 31

Police patrol downtown Kingston early on in the three-day standoff.
Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding has vowed to restore law and order in the capital, Kingston, following the deaths of at least 31 people in an offensive against a powerful alleged drug boss.

Golding said his government "deeply regrets" the loss of life that occurred on May 25 as security forces battled fighters linked to alleged drug kingpin Christopher "Dudus" Coke, who is wanted in the United States on drug-trafficking charges.

Golding's government has signed an extradition order to send Coke to the U.S. to face trial, but the suspect's followers have set up barricades and vowed to protect him, prompting authorities to declare a state of emergency.

"During this period of public emergency, a concerted effort will be made to go after the criminal gunmen in whatever community they may be ensconced," Golding told parliament. "The violence that has been unleashed onto the society by armed criminal elements must be repelled. The operations being carried out under emergency powers are extraordinary measures, but they are an extraordinary response to an extraordinary challenge to the safety and security of our citizens."

Gun battles were reported taking place on May 25 in the Tivoli Gardens area of Kingston as police and soldiers searched for the alleged drug baron.

compiled from agency reports