SUVA, Fiji — At least one person was reported killed today as Fiji's military began a crackdown on supporters of rebel leader George Speight after his arrest on suspicion of arms offenses.
Speight, who toppled Fiji's elected government in a two-month hostage standoff, was arrested Wednesday by the military. Troops then stormed a school in a suburb of Suva, the capital, where more than 350 Speight supporters have been camped for more than a week. One supporter was killed and dozens of others injured, seven of them seriously, officials said.
"One rebel has since died of his wounds," military spokesman Lt. Col. Filipo Tarakinikini told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
The surprise action came ahead of the announcement of Fiji's new Cabinet, expected today. Speight had threatened to renew his campaign of unrest unless the Cabinet was stacked with his supporters.
Speight, a self-proclaimed champion of the indigenous Fijian majority against the sizable ethnic Indian minority, was accused of illegally possessing weapons and threatening Fiji's new president.
In the first sign of retaliation against Speight's arrest, rebel supporters seized two New Zealand pilots when the plane they were flying for Air Fiji landed at Savusavu on the northern island of Vanua Levu, the military said. The captors didn't issue any immediate demands.
Speight was seized about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday at a checkpoint, along with his legal advisor, Tevita Bukarau; his spokesman, Jo Nata; and a bodyguard, local radio and the military reported.
Hours later, about 6 a.m. today, troops raided the school, and gunfire rang out several times, according to a radio report.
Soon afterward, a heavily guarded truck emerged carrying scores of Speight supporters, some of them bleeding.
The truck took about 30 to Suva hospitals, while more military vehicles ferried hundreds of other rebel supporters out of the school.
Although Speight and his supporters had been granted an amnesty for releasing the last of their 27 hostages July 13, Tarakinikini said the amnesty was conditional on the rebels turning in their arms.
Tarakinikini said a police investigation will determine what charges will be brought against Speight.
Speight claims that ethnic Indians--who make up 44% of Fiji's population--have too much power, and he sparked the crisis May 19 when he and his supporters took lawmakers hostage at Parliament, including Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, Fiji's first ethnic Indian premier, whose ouster they accomplished.