19 Apr 2006

Solomons capital under curfew

8:20 pm on 19 April 2006

A curfew has just come into effect in Solomon Islands.

An announcement was made on local radio a short time ago, asking people to go home.

This follows unprecedented rioting by hundreds of people in the capital, Honiara, which observers say has worsened during the day as looters have been drinking stolen alcohol.

Many buildings, including hotels and casinos, have been set ablaze and are still burning.

Hundreds of protesters went to the Pacific-Casino Hotel in Chinatown and torched vehicles belonging to a rental car company.

Earlier today, a 2,000-strong mob marched on government house and threatened to tear up the capital unless the new Prime Minister, Snyder Rini, stepped down.

New Zealand has decided to send reinforcements to Solomon Islands following a formal request for backup.

110 Australian soldiers and another 80 federal police officers have been sent to help restore law and order.

The New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, says the government has now confirmed that New Zealand will send a contribution.

Fiji's police commissioner, Andrew Hughes, has offered to send a small contingent of officers to help restore law and order in Honiara.

Radio Fiji quotes Mr Hughes as saying a 20-member riot team from the Police Tactical Response Unit is ready help with law and order in Honiara provided a request is made by Solomon Islands.

Mr Hughes says he spoken with his Solomon Islands counterpart and indicated his readiness to send a small team.

But Mr Hughes says the request would have to come through diplomatic channels and be directed to the caretaker government.