11 Jun 2003

Solomons rebel takes more people hostage on Weather Coast

4:19 pm on 11 June 2003

In Solomon Islands police say they have reports that up to 26 people have been taken hostage by the rebel leader Harold Keke on the Guadalcanal Weather Coast.

Both police based on the coast and the National Peace Council report that hostages have been taken.

The suspected hostages include Weather Coast villagers and members of the church group, the Melanesian Brothers.

Keke is believed to have been holding six other members of the Brotherhood for more than a month.

The rebel leader, who is held responsible for dozens of deaths in the past two years, controls part of the Weather Coast, denying police access to it.

Last week around 100 villagers were taken to Honiara to ensure they were not caught in any crossfire if police made an effort to capture Keke.

The police spokesman in Honiara says they have yet to launch any such attack.