Newstalk
Newstalk

13.05 20 Jan 2018


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British and Canadian authorities have urged tourists to stay in their resorts in Montego Bay in Jamaica after a spate of deadly shootings.

A state of emergency has been declared with soldiers deployed on the streets in what has been described as a "major military operation".

The country's prime minister Andrew Holness said "crime and violence, in particular murders" had been escalating in the parish of St James.

Last year, there were 335 murders recorded in St James, which includes the popular tourist town of Montego Bay - twice the number of any other parish.

Calling the level of criminal activity "continued and threatened", Mr Holness said his security forces had advised him it was "of such a nature and so extensive in scale as to endanger public safety".

The state of emergency gives officers additional powers, allowing them to search and detain without a warrant and shut down businesses.

A curfew has been imposed in both St James and St Catherine parish, west of the capital of Kingston.

Vehicles coming in and out of the area will also be searched.

Security minister Robert Montaque assured that security forces will only be targeting criminals, and appealed to people for information.

He said: "We need your full co-operation in moving forward in restoring peace and order so that the good people can continue to contribute to the well-being of Jamaica".

The country - which still has the death penalty - has been plagued by high rates of murder and violence.

Officials blame the recent rise in crime on gangs and lottery scams.

Following the declaration of a state of emergency, the British Foreign Office advised tourists: "You should limit your movements outside of resorts in the area at this time, and exercise particular care if travelling at night.

"Travel to and from the airport or for excursions should be undertaken with organised tour operators, and transport should be arranged or provided by the resort hotels."

The advice was echoed by Canadian officials, who added: "If you are in the affected area, be extremely vigilant".


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