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Media finally allowed inside of West Kingston hot spot

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Three days after the armed forces stormed Tivoli Gardens in Western Kingston, members of the local media were finally allowed inside.
Over 20 reporters, videographers and photographers from almost every media house were taken on a tour of the community this morning.

The tour was arranged after the Press Association of Jamaica requested that the media be allowed access.

The stench of death greeted us as we disembarked from the JUTC bus in an area of Tivoli Gardens known as Java, home of the offices of the Christopher Coke led promotional company, Presidential Click.

What remained of the office had been commandeered by scores of soldiers, firearms at the ready, their stance indicating that a very active operation was still in progress.

Still evident was the debris which had been used to barricade the community and as we walked through we were shown sandbags which we were told had been made and placed by criminals.

During the hour long walk, conducted along strict guidelines laid down by a stern JDF Major, residents slowly came out of their homes anxious to tell their version of the story.

“There is gunman, thieves and criminals everywhere in the world. There is nobody down here that is going to say we are all innocent but the point is that the people who are dying, many of them died in front of their mothers, girlfriends, children, sisters and brothers,” said a resident.

The path the tour took revealed no evidence of bombed out buildings.

However, bullet holes on the high rise buildings bore testimony of the intense fire-fight which had taken place there days before.

Heavily armed soldiers stood guard on top of buildings as the media tried to find out from shell-shocked residents why more of them had not left before the onslaught.

“If we Christians were not in here you wouldn’t see any buildings. We have to be in here on our bellies praying and begging mercy. We had to stay to pray because the people in here take everything for a joke,” said another resident.

The unfamiliar sight of the empty Coronation Market, normally a beehive of activity on other Thursday mornings, encapsulated the reality of a war-zone.

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