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Gun Battles in Jamaica Intensify

Police patrol sections of downtown Kingston, Jamaica, 24 May 2010

Police patrol sections of downtown Kingston, Jamaica, 24 May 2010

Police in Jamaica have clashed with gunmen for the second straight day, in violence related to an alleged Jamaican drug lord who faces extradition to the United States.

Troops backed by helicopters battled gunmen allied to reputed gang leader Christopher "Dudus" Coke in a slum in West Kingston on Monday.

During the violence that began Sunday, Jamaican officials say two police officers were killed and at least six others were wounded.

The Jamaican government declared a state of emergency Sunday in sections of the capital, Kingston, and nearby St. Andrew. The government says the emergency clampdown will last at least a month.

The United States has issued an arrest warrant for Coke for alleged cocaine and arms trafficking. The Jamaican government has called on Coke to surrender to face a U.S. judicial request seeking his extradition.

U.S. officials sent the extradition request for Coke to the Jamaican government nine months ago, but Prime Minister Bruce Golding refused to allow it to be processed, arguing that the evidence in it had been obtained illegally.

But amid growing criticism, Mr. Golding said last week that Coke must be arrested and brought to court for a hearing.

The United States and Britain have issued travel advisories for Jamaica because of the threat of violence and unrest. Coke is the alleged leader of a gang (the Shower Posse) with ties to the ruling Jamaica Labor Party.

On Monday, a State Department spokesman said the U.S. embassy in Kingston will suspend its non-essential services because of the deteriorating situation.

Separately, the violence prompted Air Jamaica to call off three flights from Kingston, two of which were headed to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The third flight would have gone to New York.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.