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Jamaica military raid finds no trace of drug kingpin

world Updated: May 27, 2010 16:09 IST

A military raid to capture an alleged drug kingpin has left 44 civilians dead in Kingston, according to Jamaican authorities, but the target of the mission may have slipped through their fingers.

Security forces have seized more than 500 people but have not found the man they were seeking -- local don Christopher "Dudus" Coke, who has set up a virtual mini-economy in slums a world away from Jamaica's famous beaches.

Information Minister Daryl Vaz said Coke's whereabouts were unclear and declined to comment even on whether authorities were certain about him still being in Jamaica.

Calm returned to a large part of the capital city, Kingston, late yesterday after a three-day assault. However, bullets and the occasional body littered impoverished areas where soldiers systematically searched and detained those who dared to pass through.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding ordered an assault to capture Coke on Sunday after months of hesitation on an extradition request from the US, which accuses Coke's "Shower Posse" of funneling drugs to the US East Coast.

Golding has pledged to undo Kingston's reputation as one of the world's murder capitals but also ordered an inspection of conditions amid fears of a heavy toll on bystanders. The public defender, Earl Witter, and ombudsman, Hero Blair, said they had counted the bodies of 44 civilians during a tour of Coke's Tivoli Gardens stronghold.