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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (January 26, 1999 - PACNEWS)---Police in Samoa have taken into custody the family of a murder suspect in the shooting death of a chief last week in Vatia village.

This follows an attempt to burn down the family's home two nights after Chief Alofaituli Pulou was shot dead in his home while having a shower.

Two juveniles and an adult of the deceased's family have been arrested in connection with the arson attempt. Since the shooting, police have been keeping an overnight watch in the village, together with the aumaga or untitled men of Vatia.

According to police, the wife and children of suspect Uatisone Masaniai have been taken into the Tafuna Correctional Facility for their own protection.

Meanwhile, eight grown up children of the chief arrived from the United States over the weekend and are being counseled by police and village chiefs against any attempt to avenge their father's death. A traditional ceremony of reconciliation, called ifoga, is expected. But family members say that since both the suspect and the victim are from the same family it may be difficult trying to bring the two parties together. They say that the hurt and anger has to dissipate first before such a ceremony can take place.

The ifoga involves the extended family of the suspect, led by their chiefs, sitting outside the guesthouse of the victim's family, with their heads covered with fine mats. It is up to the victim's family whether to accept the ifoga or apology in 10 minutes or two days. The ifoga can result in either peace between the two parties or further killings.

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