With the siege of the Jamaican slum Tivoli Gardens in its fourth day, the reputed drug lord being sought by police is said to be negotiating a surrender to U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officials, ABC News reports.
However, the body count in Kingston, the Caribbean nation’s capital, rose to 76 on Saturday.
Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke has been evading capture by remaining in his stronghold, while henchmen and others loyal to him battled with police and soldiers. But DEA officials, federal prosecutors, and U.S. marshals are in talks aimed at winning his extradition to the U.S. to stand trial on drug trafficking charges.
U.S. officials have sought to extradite Coke since 2009, but the motion was resisted by the Jamaican government until recently. Prime Minister Bruce Golding had worries about the legality of wiretaps used by federal agents seeking evidence in a drug case against Coke. But under pressure from opposing parties, Golding relented and signed papers allowing the arrest of Coke.
As news of Coke’s warrant spread through Kingston, some supporters peacefully protested, but others began to arm themselves for battle. Those included members of the Shower Posse, a drug gang which Coke is alleged to lead.
Meanwhile residents of Tivoli Gardens say soldiers have begun burning bodies and that the community has been turned into a war zone, despite local police denials, according to CNN.
“Never known Jamaica would become like this,” an unnamed resident told reporters. “We are decent people living here, and they are shooting everywhere.”