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Fierce gunfights rattle Kingston

Published:Tuesday | May 25, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The armed forces yesterday strongly repelled the relentless firepower of gunmen, allegedly from Fletcher's Land, who launched an assault on the Central Police Station in Jamaica's capital, Kingston.

A Gleaner news team was pinned down for more than 40 minutes at the intersection of East and East Queen streets in downtown Kingston as militants loyal to reputed gangster Christopher 'Dudus' Coke' traded bullets with the police.

The gunmen, apparently emboldened by the attacks on six police stations a day earlier, turned their venom on the Central Police Station. But alert crime fighters hit back with a vengeance, resulting in a fierce gun battle around the headquarters of Kingston CIB.

A day earlier, the Hannah Town Police Station was attacked, pillaged and burnt. So too were the Fletcher's Land, Darling Street and Denham Town stations in western Kingston. The Spanish Town and Cross Roads stations were also fired on.

As the guns blazed, terrified civilians going about their business in the downtown commercial centre - less busy not only because of the spiralling violence but on account of a national holiday - scampered for cover in just about every direction.

A mere 100 metres away, things appeared normal as a group of Jamaica Labour Party supporters, clad in green, worked feverishly on a Labour Day project. Some cleared the Highholborn Street Park while others painted pedestrian crossings at the East Queen Street intersections with Highholborn Street and Gold Street.

The participants expressed satisfaction that the situation was comparatively calm in their community. That was, however, short-lived, as metres away the Gleaner team unknowingly drove into the assault on the Central Police Station.

prepared for battle

This time around, seemingly alert members of the security forces refused to back down. Three vehicles with armed cops sped out of the Central station and, within minutes, were supported by another three units from the Flying Squad.

As gunfire raged around the station, a Gleaner reporter and photographer were forced to abandon the motor car they were travelling in and seek refuge in a building along with a dozen other persons in the area.

The doors to the building were safely drawn but the shots could be

heard a few metres away, forcing everyone to lie low.

The exchange of gunfire eased momentarily, only to gather momentum.

Three-quarters of an hour later when the team made a hasty exit from the building, the security forces were heard ordering people to get off the streets.

The drama did not end there.

The Gleaner team sped into the section of central Kingston known as South Side but was instructed by police and soldiers manning the area to detour on to Michael Manley Boulevard.

We took a circuitous route on to Elletson Road and its environs, but again, on reaching the Deanery Road-Camp Road intersection, we were ordered on to Camp Road by soldiers in the vicinity of Up Park Camp, the army's base.