June 4, 2001

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 anything
                 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 of
                 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 put up
                 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.