Jamaica gang wars escalate, residents flee
KINGSTON, Jamaica (Reuters) -- Scores of residents fled from the
volatile west Kingston area of the Jamaican capital on Monday as gunfire
between rival gangs linked to political parties broke out again, killing one
man and wounding two, police said.
Five house were destroyed by firebombs in the unrest, police said.
"The violence is escalating," said Jamaica Labor Party councilor Desmond
Gunfire and small explosions had rocked the area over the weekend in fighting
between factions supporting the ruling Peoples National Party (PNP) and the
opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
One man was killed and two wounded on Monday, police said, adding to the
slaying late on Sunday of a 41-year-old man who was shot in the back as he
walked down a street late.
The latest victims brought the death toll to at least seven from the sporadic
violence which first broke out April 18 after the killing of a local gang boss and
PNP stalwart, William "Willie Haggart" Moore and two colleagues, which his
supporters say was a political assassination.
The violence has pitted factions from Denham Town, a PNP stronghold, against
those from Hannah Town, which supports the JLP. The JLP has accused the
PNP of instigating the violence for political gain, a charge the ruling party
Scores of residents left the area on Monday for fear of more violence.
"I have a 15-year-old son. He is my only child and I cannot afford for
to happen to him. I can't take it anymore. He can't go to school and I can't go to
work. I have to leave here," one woman told the Caribbean News Agency.
Some schools and businesses closed. Kingston Public Hospital, in the heart
the conflict area, also closed on Monday because many doctors and nurses
feared going to work.
The army, which was called out to help police, tried to clear barricades
by residents. Firefighters trying to put out the blazes were hampered by
roadblocks and demanded police escorts to accompany them into the zone.
McKenzie and other political representatives planned to meet with church
leaders to look for ways to end the violence.
"We are running out of time ... we have a meeting with church leaders this
week and we are hoping to knock heads together so that this killing can stop
very quickly," McKenzie said.
The Caribbean island nation of 2.6 million people has a history of sporadic
violence between gangs linked to political parties. It also suffers from endemic
crime, much of it related to the drug trade and gang turf wars. More than 320
people have been killed so far this year, police said.
Copyright 2001 Reuters.