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Fiji: Major Sorby Caught In Crossfire

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SORBY CAUGHT IN CROSSFIRE

SUVA (Pasifik Nius): Major Samuel Sorby, commander of Fiji's special forces First Meridian Squadron, has told a court martial he was caught in the crossfire during the 2 November 2000 mutiny at Queen Elizabeth Barracks, the Sun newspaper reports.

Fifteen officers and soldiers of the now disbanded elite 1MS, earlier known as the Counter-Revolutionary Warfare Unit, face 19 charges over the mutiny in which five loyalist troops and three rebels were killed.

Unsure of what was happening on the day, Major Sorby recalled that while taking cover at the George Mate Medical Centre in the barracks, he knew he could not escape in fear of being shot from either loyalist soldiers or rebels from his 1MS unit.

"All I could do was help the nurses," he said.

He told the court that on the day of the mutiny, second in command Captain Shane Stevens had invited him for lunch, which he refused.

Around 1pm, he saw two men from his unit running towards the clock tower of the barracks with one of them holding a launcher while the other was shooting.

He said he thought it was a training drill until he heard a "crack and a thump" in the weapons.

At that point he said he knew that it was no training drill.

"I could not believe that it had happened. I told myself it was an accident," Major Sorby said.

He said he called Captain Stevens and asked what was happening, as his men were involved. Captain Stevens did not reply.

Major Sorby said he then made his way up to the National Operations Office where he met Captain Stevens.

He said Captain Stevens had a gun and ordered him into a wooden building which was being shot at from outside.

Major Sorby said he then escaped to the medical centre where he took cover.

While at the medical centre, Captain Stevens called him on his mobile phone and asked that negotiations be made with the military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

He said he called Captain Stevens again.

"He said, 'Sir, I am shot in the chest,'" Major Sorby recalled.

He said he spent the day at the medical centre until things calmed down.

The court martial began at the barracks on Monday and is continuing.

+++niuswire

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