December 31, 2001

Jamaican homicides reach record

                 KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) -- Jamaica reported a record 1,136 homicides this
                 year, fueled by drug trafficking and gang violence, police said Monday.

                 The toll was a 28 percent increase over last year's 887 slayings. The former record
                 in the Caribbean country of 2.6 million people was 1,038 killings in 1997.

                 Detective Sgt. Jubert Llewellyn blamed the increase on an influx of drugs in
                 Jamaica and said the country is increasingly being used by traffickers as a
                 transshipment point. Another factor was fighting between gangs with clashing
                 political loyalties in the capital, Kingston.

                 Gang fighting in West Kingston flared in May, leaving 71 people dead in several
                 weeks. In July, 28 others were killed in a few days of gunfights when police and
                 soldiers moved into a neighborhood that is a stronghold of the political opposition.

                 Dozens have been killed in other gang violence in Kingston, police said.

                 The gangs were used by political parties in the 1970s and 1980s to bring voters to
                 the polls, and they still maintain strong party loyalties.

                 Among those killed during the year were two soldiers and 15 police officers.

                 On Sunday, three people were killed, including an off-duty solider killed by gunmen
                 who opened fire on him and others as they played dominoes and card games in
                 Kingston. It was unclear whether the soldier was targeted, and no arrests have been

                 One man and one woman also were killed Sunday, stabbed in separate attacks
                 outside Kingston.

                  Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.