KINGSTON, Jamaica — Hundreds of security forces punched into some of Kingston's roughest neighborhoods Tuesday as the manhunt for alleged drug lord Christopher "Dudus" Coke dragged on amid a spiraling body count and fears that the crisis could have a broader economic impact.
Officials said at least 30 people, including 26 civilians, have been killed since masked gunmen, thought to be Coke loyalists, launched coordinated attacks against police stations. Heavily armed security forces fought back, raiding a fortified section of Tivoli Gardens where the 41-year-old Coke is thought to be in hiding.
Coke is believed to be the leader of the notorious "Shower Posse," and is described by the U.S. Department of Justice as one of the "most dangerous narcotics kingpins." He is facing extradition to the United States on drug and weapons charges.
Information Minister Daryl Vaz suggested the fight could escalate. "This country is under siege by criminals and the time has come for it to be dealt with," he said in a televised address.
As social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, swirled with rumors that casualties were much higher, Col. Rocky Meade, a spokesman for the Jamaican Defense Force, said the government had been showing restraint: "I can assure you that we used no more force than was necessary to protect our troops."
At the Jerk Kitchen, a Jamaican restaurant in Miami Gardens, patrons were glued to newscasts and talking to relatives across the island.
"Everybody's just scared," said restaurant manager Kerry-Ann McDonald. "They have to stay in. They don't go out. They're concerned."
South Florida is home to some 250,000 Jamaicans, many who maintain strong business and family ties. Community members were expected to meet in Miami Gardens Wednesday to share information and try to limit fallout from the violence.
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