4 Jul 2011

Bougainville police armed for first time

6:54 am on 4 July 2011

Police in the autonomous Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville are to carry guns for the first time, as the province struggles to overcome a militant faction in the south of the main island.

Last week a group of former combatants were dispatched to Konnou to speak with Damian Koike who leads a rebel group blamed for dozens of killings and other crimes over the past five years.

The former combatants will call on Mr Koike to give himself up but if this doesn't work the ABG president, John Momis, says force may have to be used and this could mean dispatching armed police.

"We are now arming our police as police can't be unarmed so I think once you have armed police, not that they will go out and willy nilly attack people, but police must be armed to deal with an armed confrontation."

John Momis says police will not carry guns in the course of their regular duties.

He says there is now just a remote possibility his government will seek the return of international peacekeepers.