– The Associated Press

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Thousands of police and soldiers stormed the Jamaican ghettos where reggae was born Tuesday in search of a reputed drug kingpin wanted by the United States, intensifying a third day of street battles that have killed at least 30 people.

The masked gunmen fighting for underworld boss Christopher “Dudus” Coke say he provides services and protection — all funded by a criminal empire that seemed untouchable until the U.S. demanded his extradition.

Coke has built a loyal following in Tivoli Gardens, the poor West Kingston slum that is his stronghold. U.S. authorities say he has been trafficking cocaine to the streets of New York City since the mid-1990s, allegedly hiring island women to hide the drugs on themselves on flights to the United States.

On Tuesday, masked gunmen in West Kingston vanished down side streets barricaded with barbed wire and junked cars. The sound of gunfire echoed across the slums on Jamaica’s south coast, far from the tourist meccas of the north shore.

Schools and businesses were closed across the capital and the government appealed for blood donations for the wounded.

Police spokesman Corporal Richard Minott said Tuesday that the fighting in West Kingston alone has killed 26 civilians and one security official. Police reported that earlier fighting killed two officers and a soldier.

The government imposed a monthlong state of emergency for the Kingston area on Sunday. Tuesday, about 10 percent of the capital was cordoned by security forces.

The violence has not touched the tourist meccas along the Caribbean island’s north shore, about 100 miles from Kingston.