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FIJI: Military negotiate with hostage-taker

MILITARY IN INTENSE NEGOTIATIONS WITH HOSTAGE-TAKER

* See Nius item 2804.

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SUVA (Pacnews) - Authorities in Fiji have entered into intense negotiations with the three gunmen who earlier today took over a police station In a suburb of the capital, Suva, Pacnews reports.

The discussions between senior military officers and the gunmen came amid assurances by the authorities that a soldier who was detained in the besieged station is safe.

Military officers would not divulge the nature of the negotiations but sources told Pacnews the three men would face legal charges later.

National radio reported that one policeman was shot in the arm when the three gunmen burst into the police station a little before ten in the morning local time.

They were apparently after Private Henry Ali, a Fiji soldier awaiting court martial for allegedly shooting to death a fellow soldier while doing peacekeeping duties with the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) early in the year.

Leading the gunmen was Lieutenant Papu Waqavonovono, the father of the dead soldier.

Radio Fiji said the army officer and his two accomplices could not find Private Ali inside the police station, since the keys to Ali's detention cell were kept by police officers who were outside when the three burst in.

The siege at one of Fiji's biggest and most modern police stations lasted for about one and a half hours and the three gunmen only surrendered following the intervention of a senior military officer.

A military statement on the incident identified the person as the chief staff officer on duty at the army's Queen Elizabeth Barracks, Lieutenant-Colonel Meli Saubulinayau.

All but one telephone lines to the police station were disconnected at the time of the siege, the military statement said.

The police station takes up two floors of a three storey building in the shopping suburb of Nabua. Authorities sealed off the entire shopping centre and diverted traffic during the one and half long siege. ... PNS

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