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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Feb. 15, 2000 – The National)---Law and order in Bougainville is deteriorating as security forces are being intimidated, says PNG Defense Force Chief of Staff Colonel David Takendu.

The latest incidents include the theft of Defense Force weapons and ammunition, intimidating of soldiers seeking treatment at a hospital and injury to a policewoman.

Col. Takendu said attacks by criminals against innocent civilians were in breach of the ceasefire agreement. He is urging appropriate government leaders and social and church workers to look into the matter immediately.

Col. Takendu said that most of the law and order problems were caused by consumption of home-brewed alcohol, which is readily available throughout Bougainville because of the current liquor ban in the province.

"In most instances the criminals were heavily under the influence of home-brew," he said. "In the latest incident, four non-Bougainvillean teachers were flown out of Arawa following intimidation and threats over the weekend."

He said a couple of vehicles were ambushed at Manetai in Central Bougainville last Thursday evening. Three people, including a policewoman, were injured in the incident.

One of the vehicles belonged to Bougainville People's Congress President Joseph Kabui.

In another incident two weeks ago, a PNG Defense Force Toyota Landcruiser loaded with food and fuel supplies was returning to Loloho when it was held up at Bonus near Buka Island.

Col. Takendu said all the goods, including arms and ammunition carried by the PNGDF soldiers, and the vehicle were stolen by a group of armed men.

"Efforts through the multinational Peace Monitoring Group and the UN to recover the properties have resulted in the return of all items except the weapons and ammunition," he said.

Col. Takendu said one of the stolen weapons, a Defense Force issue M-16 assault rifle, is believed to have been used to threaten soldiers seeking medical aid at the Arawa General Hospital.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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