US provided aerial surveillance of Jamaican raid

AP News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2011 3:13 PM
US provided aerial surveillance of Jamaican raid

A U.S. surveillance plane helped monitor the deadly 2010 raid by Jamaican security forces to capture a fugitive crime boss, the prime minister said, reversing earlier government denials.

A U.S. P-3 Orion aircraft provided aerial surveillance of the effort to capture Christopher "Dudus" Coke, Prime Minister Andrew Holness told reporters Thursday. The raid set off a fierce battle in a West Kingston slum that left more than 70 people dead.

Holness said the U.S. had no other role in the raid in the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood.

"We would want to reaffirm our position that the U.S. Government or its military did not participate in the operations in West Kingston," he said.

His statement came a day after Minister of National Security Dwight Nelson said at a news briefing that the U.S. had not provided any surveillance of the raid, denying a report in The New Yorker magazine.

Holness said that Nelson made the statement in error because Nelson was not aware of the details of the U.S. assistance. Previous government statements had also denied any U.S. role in the operation. The prime minister said the surveillance was coordinated between the Jamaican Defense Force and the "relevant government agency" in the U.S.

"The United States Government initially made an offer to provide surveillance and technical equipment," he said. "We accepted and followed the normal protocol of exchanging diplomatic notes to provide the government-to-government cover for such assistance."

Ocsar Derby, director of Jamaica's Civil Aviation Authority, said Friday that officials with the island's Defense Force had advised him the U.S. craft would conduct a surveillance mission.

"We made sure to keep other aircraft away from the area," he said.

The hunt for Coke in his West Kingston slum stronghold led to a confrontation that killed 73 civilians and three security officers over four days of fighting. He was captured by Jamaican authorities in June 2010 and extradited to the U.S., where he pleaded guilty in August to racketeering and assault charges. He faces up to 23 years in prison when he is sentenced.