TERROR returned to Spanish Town yesterday after gunmen, suspected to be members of the feared Klansman gang, attacked a police patrol, sparking a four-hour gun battle which, at one point, was fought close to St Jago High School where classes were in session.
The incident traumatised students who were eventually escorted safely off the premises by the police.
St Jago High students walk away from the school compound yesterday after a four-hour firefight between gunmen and police ended. The incident traumatised students and teachers as it occurred during class hours.
Last night, as the security forces maintained a strong presence in the affected areas, the police reported that they found an AK 47 rifle in the aftermath of the firefight, which started about 12:30 pm and sent persons in the normally bustling town running for cover.
"It was like a scene from a movie," said a member of the police team that eventually repelled the attacks of the heavily armed gunmen.
The Observer was told that the police were patrolling an area known to be controlled by the Klansman gang when they came under fire. The police responded, but were subjected to further attacks from gunmen in Rivoli, Ravensworth and areas near the Rio Cobre.
During the fighting, the gunmen attempted to run onto the premises of St Jago High but were prevented from doing so.
At Monk Street, in the vicinity of the school, parents whose children were late in returning from classes panicked. One woman wept as she anxiously waited with her hands on her head.
"I want to see my son. Where is my son?," she asked no one in particular. "School has ended and I do not know what is happening."
As shots continued to be fired, police and soldiers took up strategic positions in the area as they scoured the community in search of the attackers. But their action infuriated some residents who accused the security forces of abuse. Others hurled accusations of political victimisation against them.
"There was no shootout in the community," one man claimed. "The police dem just trying to make the area look bad because is an area that supports the People's National Party."
Yesterday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who is also the education minister, issued a strong condemnation of the shooting, noting that it could have spilled onto the school compound.
He said he was quite disturbed to learn that an educational institution could be placed in such grave danger by virtue of marauding criminals using the school compound to evade the police.
Holness said that the education ministry's counselling team will be at the school this morning at 7:00 to provide general and individual support for the teachers and students who were traumatised by the ordeal.
He also said that the police commissioner has been instructed to provide additional security within the area to ensure that the school will return to normalcy and that no more school days will be lost for the term.
Yesterday, as well, the Opposition spokesman on national security Peter Bunting expressed concern about the violence.
Bunting encouraged residents and business operators in the area to remain calm as the security forces carry out their duties to bring the situation under control. He expressed concern on behalf of the People's National Party that incidents of gun violence continue to traumatise young children and disrupt schools as well as the normal flow of business.
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