Trinidad reports mass arrests in crackdown on crime

PORT OF SPAIN,  (Reuters) – Authorities rounded up  nearly 120 people in Trinidad and Tobago after imposing  emergency rule on the oil-rich Caribbean nation this week to  halt a spike in violent crime.

Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs said 117 criminal suspects  were detained between Tuesday night and yesterday morning,  including at least 56 purported gang members on charges ranging  from drug possession and trafficking to illegal weapons  possession.

They were arrested under the limited state of emergency  announced by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Sunday,  which gave the police and military broad powers to conduct  search and seizure operations and make arrests.

The provisional suspension of some constitutional  guarantees came in response to a spate of murders blamed on the  drug trade and turf wars over smuggling routes through Trinidad  and Tobago, which is a trans-shipment point for South American  cocaine headed to Europe and the United States.

The twin-island southern Caribbean country,  has faced a growing threat from heavily armed street gangs.

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan urged gang members to lay  down their arms and get on the right side of the law. Despite  potential reprisals, he suggested they help police uncover drug  and weapons caches.

“If you share with us, information on a gang, not only will  you be able to come out of that gang but we can snuff out the  lifeblood and very existence of gangs so that you can be able  to have a life of your own,” Ramlogan told a news conference yesterday.

Authorities last imposed a state of emergency in Trinidad  and Tobago in July 1990 when members of a local extremist  Muslim group, Jamaat al Muslimeen, attempted a coup.

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