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US loaned surveillance plane for Jamaica raid

The Americas Post - Plane? What plane? Oh, you mean THAT plane...

An American military aircraft helped monitor the deadly 2010 raid by Jamaican security forces to capture a fugitive crime boss, that country’s prime minister has admitted, in spite of earlier denials by his government.

The U.S. P-3 Orion provided aerial surveillance of the operation to arrest Christopher “Dudus” Coke, Prime Minister Andrew Holness told reporters on Thursday.   The raid ignited a vicious battle in a West Kingston slum that left over 70 dead.

Holness insisted that the U.S. played 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 just one day after National Security Minister Dwight Nelson claimed that the U.S. had not provided any surveillance of the raid, in spite of a report in The New Yorker magazine.

Holness said that Nelson made the statement in error because he was unaware of the U.S. assistance. Prior official statements had also denied any U.S. role in the raid. 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 notified him the U.S. craft would carry out 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 provoked fighting that killed 73 civilians and three security officers over the next four days. He was finally arrested by Jamaican authorities and extradited to the U.S., where he pleaded guilty in August to racketeering and assault charges. Coke faces up to 23 years in prison when he is sentenced.