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SUVA. Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan. 9) – Australia’s High Commissioner to Fiji is waiting to be flown to an Australian hospital after being attacked while on her morning walk in Suva yesterday.

Australian High Commissioner Jennifer Rawson was mugged on Princes Road at about 5 a.m. while walking towards Tamavua.

Police confirmed Ms Rawson suffered serious facial injuries.

A source said Ms Rawson needed to see an oral surgeon, but there were none in the country at the moment.

Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase condemned the attack, calling on police to apprehend her assailant or assailants as soon as possible.

"It was a cowardly and brutal attack," he said. "The perpetrator must be apprehended as soon as possible."

Foreign Affairs Minister Kaliopate Tavola was saddened by the incident, saying he had informed the federal authorities in Canberra.

Officials of the State protocol division were among the first to visit Ms Rawson in the Suva Private Hospital yesterday.

Mr Tavola said they were discussing with Australian officials on Ms Rawson's possible return to Australia. He said there was no immediate need to provide diplomats with security as it was a one-off incident and could have happened to anyone. But he said if there were requests for security, the State would treat them seriously.

Mr Tavola said the relationship between Fiji and Australia would not be affected by the attack.

"It is an unfortunate incident and is sad that it happened to a prominent person," he said.

A taxi driver from Bure Taxis found Ms Rawson near the intersection of Princes Road and Howard Place and took her to her residence.

Ms Rawson's staff members then rushed her to the Suva Private Hospital.

Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes said it was a brutal and careless attack on a woman.

He appealed to people for information.

"Someone knows who did this and we appeal to them to come to us if they have information," he said.

Ms Rawson's attacker is a male Fijian, 5 feet 11 inches in height with short hair, was clean-shaven and was wearing a white T-shirt.

The man, in his late 20s, got away with Ms Rawson's blue Walkman.

Ms Rawson was alone when attacked.

Mr Hughes said Ms Rawson was saddened, but in good spirits.

He said everyone should be careful and take extra precaution as there was a "risk out there".

Mr Hughes said the attack was part of a series of violent crimes happening across the country. Thirty-eight police officers are investigating the assault.

Mr Hughes thanked drivers from Bure taxis who used their radiotelephones to locate an eyewitness and search the area. "I will certainly thank the owner. They did a great job, we did not ask them to but they were of great assistance," he said. "And it shows that we can work together as a team and we can beat this."

January 10, 2005

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