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Jamaica outraged by police killings

Security personnel armed with M16s and machine guns manned roadblocks and detained dozens of young men as part of a crackdown in a Jamaican ghetto where a 13-year-old girl, two elderly men and three others were killed during reported shootouts between police and gunmen.

Residents of the Denham Town slum in West Kingston blame officers for Monday's killings and the area has been under curfew amid an ongoing security operation to seize illegal guns and fugitives.

Human rights groups accused police of trigger-happy tactics across Jamaica that have caused 45 deaths in just the first 10 weeks of the year.

A total of 21 people were killed by police in the first six days of March.

The killings, particularly the crossfire shooting death of Nicketa Cameron, a 13-year-old from Denham Town who loved to dance and hoped to become a soldier when she grew up, have outraged residents and activists here and abroad.

"The problem is that police continue to enter marginalised inner-city communities as if everyone there were a criminal suspect," said Chiara Liguori, Caribbean researcher for Amnesty International.

Rights group Jamaicans for Justice said it was "untenable in any society that the police force should be resorting to that level of violence in order to control crime".

At their warren-like apartment building in Denham Town, Nicketa's mother and aunts pointed to bullet holes in the eight-foot-high sheet metal fence and say police indiscriminately fired through it during the Monday operation. Another patch of metal fencing with more bullet holes was taken away as evidence.

Nicketa was standing by a washing machine in a narrow hallway facing the street when she was killed by a bullet to the head during a roughly 40-minute gunbattle. The family insists the bullets were fired by police.

Police said that three of those killed on Monday were wanted for various crimes, while the girl and two others were apparently caught in the crossfire. Two other apparent bystanders, 60-something George Edmonson and Wesley Simpson, also were shot and died. Authorities said two other people were injured, but residents insist the number of injuries was higher.

Amnesty International

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