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Four People Shot Dead In Western Solomons

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By Duran Angiki USP's Pacific Journalism Online

GIZO, Solomon Is (WP): Four people were shot dead today in an early morning raid at the capital town of the Western Solomons.

Gizo, is the administrative town of the Western Solomons, which shares a maritime border with the Papua New Guinea Island of Bougainville.

Among the dead were two members of the Bougainvillian Revolutionary Army (BRA) only known by their first names as Pari and Ivan.

The were killed as part of an operation codenamed Black Shark.

Gizo hospital officials confirmed the dead and revealed that one female had been also admitted and received treatment for bullet wounds to one of her feet.

The other two were Solomon Islands nationals whose identities had been confirmed as Ian Chapangi of Guadalcanal Island and Brian Zama of the Western Solomons.

Western State police commander Aloysius Ora confirmed today that the four dead were victims of a shootout that took place at the Gizo Hotel compound.

The deceased, with their two male and five local female friends were partying in one of the hotel rooms, when they were surrounded and ordered to surrender their arms about 12.30am.

But the dead men resisted and their leader, known locally as Cornelious, escaped.

Ora said when he was called by his duty police officers to calm the members of the BRA, he could not believe seeing four dead bodies lying on the hotel room.

After interviewing about 10 members of the BRA, who carried out the mission, police reported that the operation was specifically intended to disarm members.

Police said the BRA revealed that the shootout was between loyal members and colleagues who had been carrying out criminal activities in the Western Solomons.

The operation was intended to disarm the rebellious members and transport them back to Bougainville for court martial by the central commander.

According to police, the rebel members were warned by their Central Bougainville commander to return home a fortnight ago but they defied it.

Since the escalation of the ethnic conflict in the island of Guadalcanal in the Solomons, between the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) and Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM), many people had been forced to flee to the Western Solomons.

The little town of Gizo with an initial population of about 4,000 gradually swollen to about 8,000 within the period of five months since the MEF coup on June 5.

The MEF overthrow of the Solomons police led the BRA, which had ethnic blood ties with the people of Western Solomons, to enter the state and act as "protectors".

But the BRA operation, got a negative twist when members, mostly South Bougainvillians, used it and engaged in criminal activities.

A request by Western Solomon community, state and national leaders led to the BRA Central Commander in Bougainville recalling members of the Black Shark.

Following the order for Black Shark to return three weeks ago, a few defied the order and remained in various centers of the Western Solomons, with most in Gizo.

A spokesman for the Western State said this was the basis of the BRA Central Commander decision to send the group to repatriate the criminal element.

A Solomon Islands government official, who travelled to the Western Solomons on Saturday to check on reports about the criminal activities in the state, said it was a sad reality.

Alan Qurusu, a former Member of Parliament, said he had been assigned by the national government to investigate the reports but he had witnessed it with just one night in Gizo.


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