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Thursday, November 01, 2007

North Malaita villagers allege attack by RAMSI soldiers

Tongan soldiers serving under RAMSI in North Malaita allegedly attacked and injured at least eight men in the Malu'u area last week.

Reports say the soldiers reacted after unknown individuals threw stones at their camp at Manakwai village. Government Special Envoy to RAMSI, Michael Maina, last night confirmed receiving reports of the incident and says he's investigating it. "I am travelling across to Malu'u tomorrow (today) to further investigate and ascertain the incident," Mr Maina told the Solomon Star last night.

He said the reported incident was "very serious" so he must go to the scene to find out the truth. Mr Maina said two police officers will be travelling with him.

Head of RAMSI military Lt-Col Ian Upjohn said: "We take any allegation of misconduct very seriously and we are now investigating the events in Malu'u."

Reports say Tongan soldiers serving in north Malaita have been attacked on a number of occasions by rock-throwing youths. One of those allegedly attacked, Ben Daraka, claimed the soldiers punched, kicked and butted about 10 people. "I was punched on the face, and I'm still nursing a wound on my eye," Mr Daraka told the Solomon Star by phone from Malu'u yesterday.

The alleged attack was reportedly triggered by an earlier arrest and detention the police there made on several young men. After their release, one of the detainees reportedly went and stoned the camp the Tongan soldiers were staying at in the nearby Manakwai village on two separate occasions.

Reports from Malu'u said the Tongans reacted after the second incident in search for the stone thrower. But Mr Daraka claimed those that were attacked and injured were innocent villagers. "They just came out and attacked anyone they met along the road. They even attacked a group of boys who were drinking kwaso on the roadside," he said. Daraka claimed one of the victims was buying tobacco at his (Daraka's) shop when he was punched by the soldiers.

"They then came and punched me," claimed Mr Daraka, who worked at the shop. "We honestly did not know why they attacked us," he added. He said they had reported the matter to police.

Source: Solomonstar

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