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Alleged Jamaican drug lord is captured

Acting on a tip, police find Christopher 'Dudus' Coke disguised as a woman. Coke was also wanted in the U.S., and the hunt for him provoked violence last month that left 76 people dead.

June 22, 2010|By Rasbert Turner and Chris Kraul, Special to The Times

Reporting from Kingston, Jamaica, and Bogota, — Ending a monthlong search that cost 76 people their lives, Jamaican authorities on Tuesday captured Christopher "Dudus" Coke, 42, an alleged trafficker in guns and drugs who is also wanted in the United States.

Acting on a tip, police captured Coke in St. Catherine Parish on the outskirts of Kingston. He was dressed like a woman and wearing a wig, police said.

Coke was in the company of the Rev. Al Miller, who earlier had mediated the surrender of Coke's brother Leighton to police. Coke was on his way to surrender at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston when he was stopped at a police checkpoint, Miller told a Reuters reporter.

"The police searched the vehicle that I was in, and they recognized him and held him," Miller said.

Police said they are now seeking to arrest Miller, who was not detained with Coke and remains at large.

The capture occurred two days after police offered a $5-million reward for information leading to Coke's arrest.

"I knew when they offered so much money, he would not be allowed to remain at large too long," a vendor in downtown Kingston said.

U.S. authorities initially requested the extradition of Coke in August after he was indicted in New York on drug- and gun-smuggling charges. Although he first declined to execute an arrest order, Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding finally launched an operation to capture Coke last month in the Tivoli Gardens slum, which is Coke's power base.

Authorities met with resistance from Coke's gang members, and 73 civilians and three security force members died in gun battles. More than 900 suspects were arrested and held in the National Arena for several days.

Golding's reluctance to arrest Coke had raised suspicions that the leader was protecting him, and the deadly manhunt nearly cost Golding his job. Opponents, including former Prime Minister Edward Seaga, urged Golding to resign, and he narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in Jamaica's Parliament on June 1.

The case has led to scrutiny of the close relations between some Jamaican politicians and so-called dons, or neighborhood ward bosses, of whom Coke was the most powerful. As the Caribbean became a major drug-trafficking route in recent years, U.S. authorities say, some dons, allegedly including Coke, became involved in the narcotics trade and other illegal activities, with some accruing more power and wealth than their former political patrons.

Coke allegedly was the leader of the so-called Shower Posse, the most powerful Jamaican drug-smuggling gang, with members in New York and other American cities along the East Coast.

Coke's father is a former Shower Posse boss who was burned to death in jail in 1992 before he could be extradited.

A state of emergency and curfew is still in effect for much of Kingston, and the U.S. State Department has issued a travel advisory for the capital and environs.

Special correspondent Turner reported from Kingston and special correspondent Kraul from Bogota.

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