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Fiji Troops Fire on Rampaging Youths in Capital; 12 Injured

September 19, 1987|From Times Wire Services

SUVA, Fiji — Soldiers sealed off Suva with roadblocks Friday and fired on Melanesian youths who rampaged through the streets of the capital, looting shops and setting fire to buildings.

At least 13 people were arrested and 12 were injured when the troops opened fire. There was no immediate word on what started the rioting in this South Pacific island nation, which was the scene of a military coup last May that overthrew Prime Minister Timoci Bavadra.

Witnesses said that soldiers shot a 30-year-old man in the leg after he robbed a bank.

Shop Employees Injured

Police said eight shops owned by Indian businessmen were raided during the rampage, and several store employees were injured. Three shops were severely damaged by gasoline bombs as police chased the Melanesian gang through the center of the city.

Soldiers erected roadblocks on major approaches to the city and did not allow any vehicles through, residents said. Many shops closed early, and the city was mostly calm as night fell.

Bavadra, a leftist, named a Cabinet dominated by Fiji Indians after he defeated a pro-Western government in elections April 12. Violence then broke out between Fiji Indians and ethnic Fijians. Soldiers under Col. Sitiveni Rabuka arrested Bavadra and his government in a coup, and Rabuka said he had acted to end the communal violence and restore the rights of ethnic Fijians.

Talks on Reconciliation

Fiji's governor general, Penaia Ganilau, has managed the country since the coup and has convened a series of talks aimed at bringing Bavadra and the conservative Alliance Party together in a government of national reconciliation.

The current outbreak of violence followed a spate of arson attacks in the wake of the coup.

Melanesians make up 47% of Fiji's 715,000 people. Indians, descendants of British-imported sugar plantation labor in the 19th Century, make up 49%. Europeans, Chinese and others make up the rest.

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