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FIJI: Troops fire on rebel cars

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By Matelita Ragogo
USP Journalism Student with The Fiji Times

SUVA: Tension is high after soldiers fired on Fiji rebel leader George Speight's motorcade yesterday, reports the Fiji Times.

Nobody was hurt in the incident but one of the vehicles was hit twice.

Senior figures in the Parliament complex calmed the feelings of about 200 supporters as some tried to retaliate.

Warnings have also been issued by Speight's advisers on the repercussions of such actions against the 31 hostages still in captivity at gunpoint.

And a complete breakdown in talks may have been caused by the shooting as trust in the military mechanism crumbles.

Speight was reportedly shaken by the experience, preferring to meet a delegation from Nasukamai Village from Nalawa in Ra rather than conduct a press conference.

Speight was returning from sharing afternoon tea with some Methodist Church members when his entourage was shot at.

He had earlier attended a meeting with former Vice-President and Tui Vuda, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, military chief Commodore Frank Bainimarama, Great Council of Chiefs negotiating committee chairman, Ratu Epeli Kanaimawi and the "Taukei civilian government's" choice for president, Ratu Jope Naucubalavu.

Ratu Jope's vehicle, driven by his son, was stopped and all those travelling in it were arrested and questioned until a threat from the Parliament complex of supporters going out on the streets forced Colonel Apakuki Kurusiga to return the group.

Republic of Fiji Military Forces' spokesman Captain Eroni Volavola said the soldiers had asked Speight's drivers to stop. The latter refused.

"Warning shots were fired. The soldiers had signalled for the vehicles to stop but they forced their way through," the statement said.

But Speight's group believe the shooting was an attempted assassination.

They have aggravated the already tense situation. It was a stuipid thing to do because it would have destroyed negotiations," adviser Jo Nata said.

"They were not asked to stop at any time. It was hard asking our supporters not to go outside the gate but I assure the general public we will not retaliate."

A car in the entourage had two bullet holes.

And by 4pm, army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Filipo Tarakinikini had admitted it was a mistake, apologising to Speight's group.

+++niuswire

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