As official reports surface of accused drug lord Christopher Coke's escape from his barricaded Kingston, Jamaica neighborhood, where Jamaican authorities have been attempting to arrest him for extradition to the U.S., ABC News has learned that a U.S. government report refers to Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding as a "criminal affiliate" of Coke.
Golding, who led resistance to Coke's extradition before public opinion forced him to reverse himself, is described in a document read to ABC News as a "known criminal affiliate" of Christopher "Dudus" Coke. According to official U.S. accounts , Golding's Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) was voted into power through "Coke's murderous and strong-arm tactics."
Recently, Golding and other senior Jamaican officials have been electronically intercepted talking to Coke inside his fortified redoubt, US authorities say.
The major police action to capture Coke began Monday morning. On Tuesday, U.S. authorities said they believed Coke had escaped through a ring of hundreds of cops and soldiers who had surrounded the West Kingston neighborhood of Tivoli Gardens. Jamaican and US authorities report that Coke may have slipped through police lines and escaped into one of two adjoining areas, either Denham Town or Jones Town.
By Monday night, Coke's gun-toting supporters had taken control of the Kingston Public Hospital, and the hospital's one surgeon has been treating at least 14 Coke loyalists.
Jamaican police are reporting that 30 people -- 26 civilians and four members of security forces -- have died during firefights in West Kingston as authorities attempt to capture Coke.
ABC News has learned that authorities believe at least 15 alleged gangsters have been slain. Police and soldiers have been doing battle with the alleged drug lord's heavily armed supporters and outside mercenaries that Jamaican authorities say Coke has hired. U.S. authorities say some of the mercenaries are believed to be Haitian.
In addition to the Kingston Hospital gunshot victims, the University of the West Indies (UWI) Hospital has treated 21 gunshot victims. Six of those – five civilians and one soldier – have died.
The island's Minister of National Security Dwight Nelson has alerted a third hospital, Andrews Hospital, to expect wounded and the National Blood Transfusion Service has issued an appeal to the public to donate blood. An emergency operations center has been activated to coordinate health sector responses as well as hospital security.
As the so far unsuccessful attempt to collar Coke continues, an American Airlines flight into Kingston was cancelled Tuesday and a British Airways flight Monday night was diverted to relatively peaceful Montego Bay. Air Jamaica has also cancelled flights on and off the island.
Reports of gunfire throughout Kingston continue with heavy fighting ongoing in West Kingston. Two local schools that serve American Embassy personnel were closed Tuesday and all non-essential personnel at the U.S. Embassy have been told to stay home.
During a previous attempt to capture Coke 27 were killed and a JDF helicopter was shot down. The current effort began in August 2009, when U.S. authorities forwarded a Provisional Arrest Warrant and Extradition Request to the Jamaican government.