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FIJI: Rebel leader George Speight arrested

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SUVA: Fiji's rebel leader George Speight, two key advisers and a bodyguard were early today under military detention after being arrested late last night by troops at a checkpoint near the rebel headquarters.

The four were seized under martial law which means they can be detained longer than 24 hours before charges are made.

Military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Filipe Tarakinikini said they had been arrested after soldiers stopped them at the checkpoint when they were carrying arms in violation of the Muanikau accord.

Tarakinikini said there had been threats against the life of the interim President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, who is expected to name a new interim government today.

The terms of the amnesty under the accord - which granted Speight and his followers immunity for crimes linked with the May 19 insurrection - did not apply as the rebels had not handed all weapons to the military after the end of the 60-day Parliament siege.

"The Immunity Decree called for the release of all hostages, and the return of all weapons to the military," he said.

Tarakinikini also said there had been many reports of lawlessness and harassment by the rebels in the area near Kalabu Fijian School on the outskirts of Suva.

"Mr Speight was travelling with arms and bodyguards. This is illegal. We cannot allow private militia to run the country," he said on local radio.

Education Ministry authorities closed schools today in Nasinu, near the rebel area, according to Radio Fiji.

Speight was arrested with his lawyer, Tevita Bukurau, media adviser Jo Nata and his personal bodyguard, known only as Cakau, at the Laqere bridge along the road corridor from Suva to the airport town of Nausori.

Tarakinikini said Speight and his bodyguards had been sighted several times travelling around Suva with arms.

A witness told the Fiji Sun the four failed to stop at the Nausori end of the bridge when asked to get out by soldiers.

"Shots were fired before the four were asked to get out of their four-wheel-drive vehicle," the paper quoted the witness as saying.

"They were later escorted to the army camp at Nabua where they are now under arrest."

Tarakinikini confirmed Speight was under arrest "in a cell up at Nabua".

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