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By Faafetai Matai

APIA, Samoa (October 10, 1999 – Samoa Observer)---A taxi-driver was severely beaten up for picking up two Swedish tourists from the airport for the ride into town.

"We sat there in the back seat...scared to death...unable to do anything...and the picture of the paradise we thought we were coming to was fading away," said Sven Johansson, 20.

He and his friend Peter Lamgstrom, also 20, had arrived at Faleolo International Airport last Saturday. As they walked out of the building, there were many people.

The two decided to take the bus into town for $15 each. But inside the bus, they changed their minds. They thought it would be better to pay another $3 to catch a taxi. So they got off the bus and agreed to pay taxi driver Nemaia Aso $20. Peter said the bus driver appeared angry because he had just lost two passengers.

About 20 minutes from the airport, near the village of Puipaa, the two tourists saw a bus speeding up and appearing to give chase. "All of a sudden he pulled right in front of us and stopped," said Sven.

"Our taxi driver tried to overtake the bus but couldn't. The bus was almost across the road and we were forced to stop," added Peter. Two men got out of the bus, one of whom was wielding a shiny metal bar. They approached the taxi on the driver side. Sven said, "I just heard three quick Samoan words and then suddenly they started punching our driver."

After a few minutes of punching and beating, the two men got into the bus and drove off, leaving the taxi driver a little groggy.

"The taxi driver said to us, ‘Sorry guys...I can't drive this car anymore’."

The two Swedes felt sorry for him caught another taxi into town.

"The incident scared us, but when we went to a night club, we met so many friendly people," said Peter.

The two Swedish tourists saved money for the last five years to come here and are looking forward to their nine-day holiday.

The incident was confirmed by two taxi drivers at the airport as well as Nemaia's cousin in Leulumoega Tuai. He said Nemaia's eye was swollen and bloodshot. But he was still driving his taxi, which is registered in his name.

For additional reports from the Samoa Observer, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa Observer.

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