30 Oct 2002

Solomon Islands militant leader said to have taken hostages

11:58 am on 30 October 2002

An unofficial report from Solomon Islands police says militant leader, Harold Keke, is using villagers as human shields in his hideout.

The Guadalcanal provincial police report says that includes women and children who had been forced at gunpoint to leave their villages .

Police have sent a 40 strong team to the weather coast in an attempt to capture the rebel leader who's claimed responsibility for several murders, including that of a cabinet minister.

A reliable source from the ministry of police and national security says one of Keke's men was shot dead at the end of last week as he attempted to escape.

Seven people, including six followers of Keke, have already died in a shootout.

The source says the operation to capture the militant leader is proceeding very carefully because of the civilian presence at his base.

The source says at this stage Keke and his men have been surrounded and police will try to starve him out by blocking his supply routes.

Deputy Police Commissioner Wilfred Akao says police headquarters will not make any comment on any aspect of the campaign to arrest Keke until it is completed.