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Jamaican gang leader at center of deadly violence agrees to US extradition

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Jamaican gang leader Christopher "Dudus" Coke agreed to be extradited to the United States on Thursday, saying it was in the best interest of his family and country.

Coke, whose supporters clashed with security forces last month in street battles that killed 76 people, waived his right to an extradition trial at his first appearance before a Jamaican judge.

In a statement released to the media, he said he was deeply saddened by the lives lost in the fighting sparked by the threat of his extradition. He said he hopes his decision will lead to healing for the nation.

"I take this decision for I now believe it to be in the best interest of my family, the community of Western Kingston and in particular the people of Tivoli Gardens and above all Jamaica," Coke said in his first public comment since the U.S. requested his extradition in August.

The 42-year-old suspect faces a maximum life sentence if convicted of drugs and weapons charges. As leader of the notorious Shower Posse gang, U.S. prosecutors say Coke has overseen large shipments of cocaine and marijuana to the Eastern United States since the 1990s.

At the hearing Thursday, Coke expressed confidence that he will be found innocent and allowed to return to his family in Jamaica.

Coke was captured Tuesday after a monthlong manhunt. The extradition hearing was held at a military outpost in Kingston, the Caribbean island's capital, out of concerns of possible attacks by supporters.

His attorneys said U.S. authorities were expected to take custody of Coke and fly him to New York immediately.

"The national security minister has only one document to sign and Coke should be out of the country," attorney Tom Tavares-Finson said.

Jamaican Information Minister Daryl Vaz said the government's fight against gangs that control poor slums in Jamaica would not end with Coke's extradition.

"This extradition will be taking place. But this does not mean there will be any letup," Vaz said shortly after the extradition hearing.