Three Charred Bodies Found in Solomon Islands Unrest

Australia announced Thursday it's sending police, troops, and diplomats to help
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 25, 2021 10:20 AM CST
Updated Nov 27, 2021 11:35 AM CST
Unrest Is Brewing in the Solomon Islands
In this image made from aerial video, smoke rises from burning buildings during a protest in the capital of Honiara, Solomon Islands, on Thursday.   (Australian Broadcasting Corporation via AP)

(Newser) Update: Police are investigating after three burned human bodies were found in a building in Honiara, the first to die in the riots. They were found in a burned-out building in the Chinatown section of the capital city, the Guardian reports. Police don’t know who they are or how they died. “We couldn’t tell if they are Chinese people or locals,” security guard Edie Soa said of the victims. Soa said they were found in a shop in the same room as a cash box with cash on the floor. The capital is under a curfew after protesters attacked the prime minister’s home, and Australian police have shown up to help keep the peace, Al Jazeera reports. Our original story from Nov. 25 follows:

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Australia announced Thursday it's sending police, troops, and diplomats to the Solomon Islands to help after anti-government demonstrators defied lockdown orders and took to the streets for a second day in violent protests. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the first personnel left Australia on Thursday with more going on Friday, and the deployment was expected to last for a few weeks. "Our purpose here is to provide stability and security," he said. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare declared a lockdown Wednesday after about 1,000 people gathered in protest in the capital, Honiara, demanding his resignation over a host of domestic issues.

It wasn't immediately clear what triggered the outburst of protests, but tensions between the government and the leadership of the most populous island, Malaita, have been simmering for some time. The premier of Malaita has been outspokenly critical of Sogavare's 2019 decision to cut the country's diplomatic ties with Taiwan, switching its diplomatic allegiance to China instead, accusing him of getting too close to Beijing, reports the AP. The province has also complained it has been unfairly deprived of government investment: The New York Times describes Malaita as "one of the least-developed provinces in the island nation."

The protesters on Wednesday breached the National Parliament building and burned the thatched roof of a nearby building, the government said. They also set fire to a police station and other buildings, and the Times reports more buildings were set on fire Thursday, with "outnumbered" police erecting a barricade to keep protestors out of the main business district. "They were intent on destroying our nation and ... the trust that was slowly building among our people," the government said in a statement. Morrison said Sogavare requested assistance from Australia amid the violence under a bilateral security treaty. "It is not the Australian government's intention in any way to intervene in the internal affairs of the Solomon Islands. That is for them to resolve," he said. (Read more Solomon Islands stories.)

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