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Residents say Tivoli strongman escaped....

As police continue their search for west Kingston strongman, Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, residents are claiming that he has gone into hiding.

THE STAR has been informed that Dudus managed to evade the major police/military operation which began on Monday and was aimed at capturing him and restoring calm to Tivoli Gardens and its environs.

However, the security forces have so far managed to only complete half of the operation as up to press time last night Dudus was still at large.

THE STAR heard two versions of how Dudus managed to escape from residents.

One female who resides close to a section of the community where the embattled don would normally hang out, claimed that he had left the community last week, days before the operation began.

"Yu see all dem dung yah a search, dem naw go find him cause him lef ya so from last week, di man a nuh fool," she claimed.

One thug who managed to survive the gunfight with the security forces and claimed to have since sought refuge in his mother's home, told a different version of how Dudus left.

According to him, Dudus left shortly before the operation began and even said it was fortunate that he did so as a building in which he was hiding, was one of the first locations stormed by the security forces.

"Is like di man get a feeling and jus cut same time ... It look like di Babylon (security forces) dem a get information pon him cause di building weh him did inna a one a di first building dem weh dem search," he said.

As for the possible route that Dudus took outside the community, neither source could say.

"Bway mi nuh know which way him tek eno but a di President dat and anything possible wid him," another thug said when contacted yesterday.

The thugs also told THE STAR that a few of their high-ranking persons were killed during the operation which saw them eventually retreating while some fled to other communities.

The media is being barred from entering west Kingston, but yesterday THE STAR visited the Darling Street Police Station which is just metres from Tivoli Gardens.

Soldiers there could be seen atop a number of buildings and walking through sections of the community, a clear sign that the security forces have restored some form of order.

At a press conference yesterday, Minister of National Security Senator Dwight Nelson, though not disclosing an official number, said a large cache of weapons and ammunition were seized in addition to army fatigue, ballistic vests and other illegal items.

Up to yesterday afternoon, the official count of dead persons was 26, however, medical sources and the Public Defender, Earl Witter, claim that more than 40 persons have been killed in the clashes.

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