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Jamaica's Murder Toll Rises 27%

Violence: Three deaths over the weekend bring total for the year to 1,131 on the island of 2.6 million people.

January 01, 2002|From Reuters

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Weekend killings in Jamaica brought the Caribbean island's murder toll to 1,131 for the year, an increase of more than 27% over last year, according to a newspaper report Monday.

During the weekend, a soldier was shot dead by gunmen, a woman was fatally stabbed and her husband charged with her murder, and a laborer was stabbed to death during an argument at a wedding reception, the Jamaica Gleaner reported.

Police could not be reached for comment Monday, when many offices closed early for New Year's Eve.

The newspaper said the latest killings brought Jamaica's murder total to 1,131 during 2001, up from 887 last year. The dead included 15 members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and two soldiers.

The island has one of the worst per capita murder rates in the world.

Much of the violence, especially in the impoverished urban areas of the capital, has been blamed on armed gangs loyal to Jamaica's two major political parties, the ruling People's National Party and the opposition Jamaica Labor Party.

Such violence has been common in the months leading up to national elections in the past. Jamaica's next elections are due before the end of this year.

Jamaica's police and army have been on high alert since early July, when 25 people died in politically charged gun battles between security forces and residents in West Kingston.

The soldier killed during the weekend, Oneil Henry, 24, was among a group of people playing cards and dominoes in Kingston when a group of heavily armed men approached and opened fire. Henry was shot and killed and a 14-year-old girl was grazed by a bullet in the attack, which police said may have been linked to a gang feud.

A 25-year-old woman, Estriana Edward-Simmons, was stabbed to death during a domestic dispute at her home Saturday night, and her husband, George Simmons, was arrested on a murder charge, the newspaper said.

The other weekend murder victim, Derrick Bailey, was stabbed to death during a knife fight with another guest at a wedding reception early Sunday, the newspaper said.

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