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30 Dead in Gunbattles in Jamaican Capital

Police are on patrol in Kingston, Jamaica, 24 May 2010

Authorities in Jamaica say gunbattles in the capital, Kingston, have left at least 30 people dead, as hundreds of troops and police search for an alleged drug kingpin wanted by the United States.

At least 25 people have been injured and 200 others taken into custody.

The violence has been triggered by government moves to extradite Christopher "Dudus" Coke, the alleged leader of the "Shower Posse," named for the practice of showering rivals with bullets during the cocaine wars of the 1980s.

Heavily armed security forces stormed the Tivoli Gardens slum of western Kingston Monday in an effort to locate Coke, who has not been found. Last week, Coke's supporters barricaded the area to thwart his arrest.

The trouble has forced the closure of schools and businesses across the capital, and the government has appealed for blood donations for the wounded. A state of emergency is in effect for parts of Kingston.

The United States has issued a travel alert to warn citizens against visiting the island nation.

Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding has promised "strong and decisive" action to restore order.

Prime Minister Golding told parliament that the government deeply regrets the loss of lives, especially those of members of the security forces and innocent, law-abiding citizens caught in the crossfire.

Earlier, the secretary-general of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, said he fully supports the efforts of the Jamaican government and its security forces to reassert the authority of the state over the criminal elements in western Kingston.

Coke controls the Tivoli Gardens slum, a key constituency of the ruling Jamaica Labor Party, or JLP.

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