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Armed Robbery; Speight terrorist main suspect

PEOPLE'S COALITION GOVERNMENT, FIJI

Armed robbery; terrorist main suspect Issue No: 300 18 December 2000

Five armed men stormed into the Morris Hedstrom Superfresh store in Tamavua, Suva this morning and stole over $100,000 in cash. The shop belongs to the Carpenters group in which the Fijian Holdings Ltd has a shareholding.

The men were armed with at least one M-16 and a K-2 rifle. Both these are military issued weapons. It is believed that the weapons were part of the set which was used by the terrorists on the Parliament Complex after May 19. These were allowed out of the military armoury by soldiers in league with the terrorists.

According to the military spokesman Major Howard Politini, the leader of the gang is believed to be notorious terrorist Tevita Poese. Poese, an ex-solider and convict, was the main trainer of Speight's men who turned up at the Parliament Complex after May 19. Poese was charged with converting the men into Speight's personal army. During this time he also began preaching the gospel and would often appear with neckties with holy cross printed on them. He left the Parliament after 13 July when the hostages were released, and has since been on the run. So far, despite media pressure, the military and the police have still not published Poese's picture in the papers.

The armed robbery took place only 3 days after the military handed over the security operations to the police and lifted the curfew in Suva. The military has reportedly captured two of the five involved. This afternoon the Police Commissioner Isikia Savua informed the media that he had asked the military to hand over those captured because it was now police's responsibility to handle such criminal matters. Savua did his best to portray that matter as unrelated to the terrorist uprising, despite evidence that the weapons used were military issued and their leader is a Parliament Complex terrorist.

Suva has been very tense over the weekend. Many business houses believe that the lifting of the curfew at this time will lead to major criminal activities, particularly with dozens of sophisticated arms in the hands of the terrorists.

END 18 December 2000

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