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Fiji: 9 Hostages Released, 18 To Go

Suva: Nine of the 27 hostages held by rebel leader George Speight were released from the Parliamentary complex early this morning, with a promise that the final eighteen would be released tomorrow.

The hostages were released early in the morning between 1:00am and 1:30am, a move which ensured they were not in the “glare of the media” said rebel spokesperson Joe Nata.

The deposed ethnic Indian Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudry and his son Rajendra were not among the freed hostages. Seven of the nine hostages were ethnic Indians.

They were taken by bus to a Red Cross station before returning to their homes.

Local Fiji radio reported a doctor who attended the patients describing their condition as “stable.

Meanwhile, internet news site www.fijilive.com reports that the unexpected move to release the hostages has caused some discontent in the Speight camp.

Nationalist Vanua Tako Lavo Party leader Iliesa Duvuloco told local radio station FM96 he was upset that George Speight had not consulted with his group before making the move.

"I am very disappointed that such a big decision cannot be discussed among us - not only the people supporting the cause but even those of us who are very senior in some capacity.

"We think some of these things should be discussed.” Mr Duvuloco said.

Fijilive has also released the names of the hostages:

The nine who were released are:
Leo Smith
Vinod Maharaj
Anand Singh
Pradhuman Raniga
Bill Aull
Anup Kumar
Prince Gopal Latchman
Deo Narayan
Shiu Sharan Sharma

The latest release is the beginning of the end of a hostage crisis that has kept Fiji’s political future in limbo for the last seven weeks.

IT began on May 19 when Prime Minister Chaudhry and most of his multi-racial cabinet were taken prisoner by rebels who stormed parliament and demanded a new government controlled by ethnic Fijians. Ethnic Indians make up 44 percent of the population and dominate the economy.

The military responded by taking over control of the republic in an interim administration which negotiated with the hostages takers. Over the weekend they reached an agreement with rebel leader George Speight, giving into his key demands. In return he has promised to release all the hostages by Thursday.

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