Military Speak Out On Nimacere's Death
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By Tamani Nair USP's Pacific Journalism Online
SUVA: Prison fugitive Alifereti Nimacere reached for his gun and tried to flee from his hideout house when Fiji military forces searching for him opened fire, a military spokesperson said today.
Major Howard Politini said Nimacere told Radio Fiji that he died while being taken to the military barracks last night.
He was responding to allegations in the media of human rights violations by the military over Nimacere's death.
Nimacere was captured by troops hunting for escaped rebels following a mutiny on Thursday in which eight soldiers were killed in a battle at Suva's Queen Elizabeth Barracks.
The Fiji Times today reported an eyewitness who said he saw soldiers "kick and punch Nimacere before hitting them with the butts of their firearms".
Radio Fiji quoted Major Politini as saying the military had responded to a tip-off from a policeman that he was in a house in his home village of Nadonumai, near Lami, a seaside township on the outskirts of Suva.
"The area was cordoned off and we moved into the house which we believe that he was sitting inside, drinking whatever," Major Politini said.
"He was identified by the person who told us and as the soldiers moved in. He reached for his weapon and wanted to run out of the house, after us telling him not to do so.
"But he still pulled out his gun and he was shot in our response and the result of two gunshots.
"He died as was being brought to the [Queen Elizabeth Barracks] military camp."
Major Politini said Nimacere had been involved in the ambush at a rural settlement in Navuso in August when one army officer and one policeman were shot dead and three others seriously wounded.
According to the Fiji Times, residents of Nadonumai were in a state of shock after the shootout with Nimacere.
"One man who witnessed the assault said he saw soldiers kick and punch Nimacere before hitting him with the butts of their firearms on a concrete stairway," the paper said.
"'It was a sore sight.'
"'Then they bound him on their vehicle and continued to assault him while driving away,' the witness said."
A young mother told the Fiji Times it was the first time such a horrifying incident had happened in the village.
"We are scared and feel restricted in our movements now because soldiers are continually patrolling the streets," the woman said.
Medical superintendent Dr Salimoni Tuqa told the newspaper Nimacere was already dead when taken to the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva at 12.30am today. He was earlier reported to have been seized about 10pm last night.