By Humphrey Carter THE National Police riot squad endured another nervous and tense night yesterday as they continued with their extremely unpopular anti-drugs operation in the shanty town of Son Banya.

For the second consecutive weekend, armed National Police units have sealed off the three access routes to Son Banya, strangling the neighbourhood's lucrative drugs market and provoking a violent response from Son Banya residents.

The operation is part of the ongoing war on drugs in the Balearics and the Son Banya neighbourhood which Palma City Council has for years been trying to demolish, is considered key to much of the trafficking and dealing.

This weekend's operation started calmly on Friday afternoon.
A peaceful protest was made by a group of 100 residents as the police set up road blocks at the Mercapalma roundabout. Apart from having their market cutoff, they claim that Son Banya residents are being prevented from returning home because Son Banya is not stated as their place of residence on their identification card. As far as the police are concerned, only Son Banya residents are allowed in and out of the drugs den on weekends. Tensions started to flair but, threatened with a police charge, the protesters returned home.

However, as dusk started to fall, nerves started to flair as a group of masked youths destroyed between 120 and 130 vehicles on a nearby parking lot which they attacked with Molotov cocktails and rocks causing thousands of euros worth of damage. The National Police responded by firing tear gas over the youths while fire fighters battled the flaming vehicles, containing the blaze before it could spread to more of the 2'000-plus cars parked on the site.

Violence flared again in the early hours of yesterday morning and in day light, the remains of the Molotov cocktails, homemade missiles and rocks could be clearly seen.

More Molotov cocktails were aimed at the police and again, the riot squad returned fire with tear gas.
At going to press last night, the situation remained tense and the National Police, with Local Police support and teams of fire fighters on stand by in the area, were braced for another night of clashes with the Son Banya residents as the road blocks continued with police also checking vehicles for Molotov cocktail and missile-making material.

The National Police operation will stand down at midnight tonight but the drugs squad is keeping Son Banya under extremely close surveillance, monitoring the movements and activities of key suspects, and residents can expect the road blocks and the armed police to return this coming Friday prepared to be attacked by Molotov cocktails all over again.