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Dudus Coke in custody, Jamaica focuses on keeping peace

Jamaica captured alleged drug kingpin Christopher 'Dudus' Coke on Tuesday. The country extended a state of emergency to give security forces more time to ensure calm after riots last month by Dudus loyalists.

By Staff Writer / June 23, 2010

Mexico City

Police scored a significant victory yesterday with the capture of alleged drug kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke outside the Jamaican capital, Kingston – one that caps a turbulent period in the nation's history and was hailed by US authorities.

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But their immediate next goal will be to keep peace, after at least 70 people were killed last month in clashes between police and Mr. Coke's supporters.

Police have appealed for calm. "I would like to appeal to the families, friends, and sympathizers of Christopher Coke to remain calm and to allow the law to take its course,” Police Commissioner Owen Ellington said Tuesday. “I also [would] like to assure the citizens of Jamaica that the situation remains normal, there is no need for alarm, and they can get about their normal businesses in the usual way."

A state of emergency was put in place last month to ease tensions after gun fights and deadly skirmishes scared Jamaicans off the streets. It was extended yesterday to July 22, unless it is revoked earlier. While acknowledging that it curtails some rights, Prime Minister Bruce Golding said the state of emergency has given security forces an edge. "The security forces today have the upper hand," he said. "The criminal underworld is shaken, not completely routed, but shaken. If sustained, it will cause those involved in criminal activity to seek to find less hazardous pastimes."

Clinton Hewan, a former Jamaican diplomat and professor of political science at Northern Kentucky University, says that he doubts a fresh round of violence will erupt. "There is every effort to make it sure it is as peaceful as possible." He hailed the arrest. "I think it is a good thing. Based on what information is out there, any type of act that is going to bring a negative name to the country needs to be cleaned up. ... this is good for Jamaica and the Caribbean."

Turning himself in?

Mr. Coke was captured by police Tuesday in the St. Catherine parish, reportedly on the way to turn himself in to US authorities. There were no reports of violence – unlike last month when the search for him in the slum of Tivoli Gardens, prompted by a warrant for his arrest, erupted into four days of gun battles between authorities and Coke loyalists.