4 DEAD, SEVERAL WOUNDED, FIJI ARMY RE-TAKING CONTROL

PEOPLE’S COALITION GOVERNMENT, FIJI Suva, Fiji

NEWS RELEASE November 2, 2000

At least four soldiers have been confirmed dead in the shootout between rival factions of the military. Ten others have been hospitalised. Nine civilians who got hit by stray bullets are also admitted at the CWM hospital.

The dead include one from the rival faction taking over the barracks.

The faction loyal to the Commander, including the navy and the army training group, stormed the barracks this evening at 6:20 p.m. and eventually managed to take control of the barrack after heavy artillery fire. Twenty soldiers of the rival faction escaped with arms, mostly M-16 and K-2 rifles, and are now around Suva. The 20 are from the counter-revolutionary warfare unit.

Five rivals had escaped during the day and were captured as they headed towards Nausori airport.

After the storming the military freed the five officers who were taken hostage by the rival faction. Some of those captured by the military are now in the Suva prison.

The rival faction, comprising the CRW soldiers, is reportedly led by Lt. Cakai. The CRW unit was especially set up by Major General Sitiveni Rabuka after his coups in 1987. Some CRW soldiers trained on Rabuka’s farm in Vanua Levu before taking over the Parliament Complex on May 19. Rabuka stated he was not aware that his farm was used for the training.

Rabuka, who is now the Chairperson of the Great Council of Chiefs, had also gone to the military barracks around 6:00 p.m. this evening to get the factions to the negotiating table.

The rivals had earlier taken five officers hostage and called on the military’s senior officers – those above Lt. Col. rank – for negotiation on their demands. The Bainimarama faction refused to negotiate and decided to storm the barracks. It is believed that while the rival faction had taken over the armory, it only had access to the weapons but not to much ammunition.

The demands of the faction have not been made public.

While the military seems to have regained control of the barracks, a local radio station reported that there is still a lot of confusion because the army is still assessing how many at the barrack are loyal to the Commander. While gunfire at the barracks ceased around 9:30 p.m., more exchanges are expected since the military is in pursuit of the armed rivals.

Meanwhile, Suva, Nausori and Navua areas have been placed under an 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew, and schools in the area have been ordered to remain closed tomorrow. The main road at four miles, linking Suva and Nasinu and Nausori, is closed to all traffic. Vehicles with armed persons have been seen in Suva this evening, despite the curfew.

It is unclear whether these are from the Bainimarama faction or the CRW faction.

Reports from Labasa and Lautoka also have said that soldiers and police are on high alert; in both places armed soldiers have been seen around the towns and suburbs.

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