MORE MILITANTS KILLED IN SOLOMON ISLANDS, SAYS RED CROSS

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (July 5, 2000 -Solomon Star/PINA Nius Online)---More deaths of militants have been confirmed by the Red Cross following the shoot-out between the two militia groups – the Malaita Eagle Force and the Isatabu Freedom Movement -- in the Alligator Creek area on Monday.

Solomon Islands Red Cross Secretary General Agnes Akwai has refused to reveal the exact number of deaths, but she said the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM) command had confirmed to her that there were more deaths besides two bodies that were delivered to the National Referral Hospital on Monday.

Ms. Akwai said that besides these, there was a high number of injured IFM fighters.

She said that after the heavy shoot-out on Monday, the Red Cross team went to the battlefield and assisted two IFM fighters who needed urgent medical assistance. The two were treated at Central Hospital.

Ms. Akwai added that the two bodies brought to the hospital on Monday were transported back to their relatives yesterday for proper burial.

They were from Binu, on the Guadalcanal plains.

Yesterday morning, the Red Cross transported further medical supplies to Balasuna Clinic, where it was badly needed.

She appealed to the militant groups to recognize the Red Cross personnel when they are on the field to save lives.

Renewed fighting came about as the new Coalition for National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace government moved into office for the first day after coming into power on Friday.

But in a statement released through the Internet, IFM said it does not recognize the Sogavare-led government and will, as a result, not deal with or hold discussions with it.

BACKGROUND

In an earlier story from the Solomon Star, journalist Robert Iroga reported that two members of the Isatabu Freedom Movement were killed Monday when the Malaita Eagle Force-Joint Operation launched an operation, "Eagles Storm," in an effort to take control of the IFM's stronghold area at Alligator Creek.

MEF-Joint operation spokesman Andrew Nori said that the MEF is now in control of the area from Henderson International Airport to SIPL 1, which, he added, will be heavily patrolled.

Pictures obtained by the Solomon Star showed the two bodies in traditional cloth (kabilato) with seven homemade guns, surrounded by members of the MEF.

Nori confirmed the two deaths, adding that his boys had seen several more bodies carried away by IFM fighters.

Nori said the MEF's declaration of war on IFM remains unchanged.

He explained that "Eagles Storm" was launched following provocation from the IFM, who built bunkers on the eastern end of Alligator Bridge on June 5.

"Eagles Storm" was launched at 4:00 a.m. yesterday by two MEF units stationed at New Zealand Camp, Nori said.

He said the two units combed the bushes up to St Joseph Tenaru down to the IFM bunkers at Alligator Creek.

Nori said at 8:00 a.m. the joint operation launched a major operation at Alligator Creek.

Thirty minutes later they totally overran the IFM bunkers and destroyed them with the help of MEF units stationed at Tenaru.

According to Nori, the joint operation included an armed 'tank' (bulldozer) supported by men with automatic rifles.

Nori also ruled out claims that Alligator Bridge was damaged. He said the explosives placed by the IFM under the bridge did not damage it when they went off.

"In fact, it was a commercial explosive, not a military one," he added.

It was the first time that MEF took command of IFM bunkers on the eastern side of Alligator Bridge, the scene of fierce fighting in recent weeks.

Nori said that the road up to SIPL is now open for the public but he warned that those seen with guns will be dealt with seriously by the joint operation.

He added that the joint operation is now extending its patrol to SIPL.

Nori said they will monitor the situation in West Honiara and warned that the MEF will take serious action if the IFM provokes them.

Meanwhile, Nori said they recaptured Marau station on Saturday using a 50-caliber machine gun, which caused the IFM to flee.

Nori said the MEF is still committed to peace and the incident at Alligator Creek would not stop them from participating in future cease-fire talks.

Police confirmed yesterday that the members of the IFM had fled the eastern side of Alligator Creek.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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