'Drug kingpin' at centre of Kingston violence caught

Last updated 10:53 23/06/2010
Christopher
Reuters
'DRUG KINGPING': Christopher "Dudus" Coke.

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Alleged drug kingpin Christopher "Dudus" Coke has been arrested by police on the outskirts of Kingston, peacefully ending a manhunt for the fugitive at the center of last month's deadly raids in the Jamaican capital.

Coke, 42, is wanted for extradition to the United States on drug and gun trafficking charges. Police said they arrested him without violence at a road checkpoint in the Portmore area of St. Catherine Parish on Tuesday (local time).

Seventy-six people were killed in four days of gun battles last month when police and soldiers stormed the Tivoli Gardens slum in west Kingston in an attempt to take Coke into custody.

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington declined to comment on reports Coke had been moved to army headquarters on Tuesday night.

"He appeared to be physically well and we will be preparing him to face the court as soon as possible," Ellington said.

Coke was on his way to surrender at the US Embassy in Kingston when police stopped him at the checkpoint, according to a minister who accompanied him on Tuesday.

"The police searched the vehicle that I was in and they recognised him and held him," the Reverend Al Miller said.

Miller said Coke asked for his help in arranging the surrender at the embassy because he did not trust the police not to harm him if he surrendered to them.

"He also wanted to waive his right to an extradition hearing so that he could go to the US for a trial," said Miller, a minister at the nondenominational Whole Life Ministry.

US prosecutors have described Coke as the current leader of the "Shower Posse" that murdered hundreds of people during the cocaine wars of the 1980s.

Coke commanded a private militia and his supporters burned down two police stations and shot up four others in an attempt to prevent Coke's extradition during attacks that preceded last month's deadly raids.

Ellington, the police commissioner, lauded his men for the capture and urged them to be alert to potential threats from those sympathetic to Coke.

Ellington said he was uncertain whether Coke would be charged in Jamaica in connection with the deaths of two policemen and a soldier killed during last month's clashes.

"We are investigating all the attacks on our personnel and I am not in a position to make a definitive statement on that matter as yet," Ellington said.

He said the circumstances of Coke's capture were under investigation.

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Miller, who has publicly opposed the United States' request to extradite Coke, was allowed to leave the police checkpoint after Coke was arrested, and Ellington said he was investigating why that was done.

"The police are asking the Reverend Al Miller to immediately turn himself in at any police station along with his lawyer for questioning, as he is a major person of interest on a matter currently being investigated by the police," spokesman Karl Angell said.

If Coke waives his right to an extradition hearing, he could be sent directly to the United States for trial.

Coke was a strong supporter of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party and wielded powerful influence in the west Kingston slums. Jamaica initially refused to extradite him to New York for trial after his indictment last year, and the case had strained relations between the United States and Jamaica.

- Reuters

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