US cable: Mortars used in Tivoli Gardens incursion

(Jamaica Gleaner) With the sentencing of confessed gangster Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke today, a cable obtained under the Freedom of Information Act has revealed that mortars were used by the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) in the operation to capture him in Tivoli Gardens in May 2010.

The unclassified cable provided to The Gleaner by Mattathias Schwartz of The New Yorker is from the US Embassy in Kingston to the Secretary of State in Washington DC.

The subject of the cable is ‘Security Forces Assault Tivoli Gardens Stronghold, Civil Unrest and State of Emergency in Kingston’.

The cable describes an all out assault on the heavily defended Tivoli Gardens “following two days of civil unrest and gang-related violence in several parts of the metropolitan Kingston area “by the Jamaica Defence Force.

The cable then said “The JDF fired mortars and then used bulldozers to break through heavy barricades which Coke’s supporters had erected to block entry to the fortified enclave”.

The revelation by the cable seems to explain claims by residents that the JDF had used bombs in its operation in the community which is a warren-like public housing project with a population of 25,000 persons.

Speaking with The Gleaner yesterday, a foreign military expert described a mortar as an indirect-fire explosive weapon or a bomb with a tailfin.

He said military strategy would not allow the use of mortars in any residential area unless the goal was ”to kill” .

At the time the claim was made by residents in 2010, Army Colonel Rocky Meade told journalists that he was unaware of the use of such force. “I am not sure what persons refer to when they talk about bombs, so I can’t speak to that either,” said Meade at the time.

He also added that the soldiers were being very careful to protect the rights of persons in the west Kingston operation.

“Our terms of engagement require the use of the minimum force necessary to protect the lives of our troops and persons we are engaged to protect. If there is a specific report, we will investigate it, and I can assure you that if there was abuse, that will be dealt with by our internal processes.”  Major Ricardo Blackwood, who was in charge of media relations at the JDF then said the community was so well fortified that it took the joint military and police team almost 12 hours just to enter the area.

He noted that the team had to resort to the use of explosives to breach walls in order to get into Tivoli Gardens.

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