28 May 2003

Solomons police say four more die in violence on Guadalcanal's Weather Coast

6:21 am on 28 May 2003

Solomon Islands police say four people are confirmed dead after renewed violence on the remote Weather Coast of Guadalcanal.

The police spokesman Charles Lemoa says the death toll could go higher after rebels aligned with Harold Keke attacked Oqio village burning down houses.

He says there was also a shootout at another village, Biti, between police and Keke's followers.

Mr Lemoa says police are not sure whether the rebels were acting on Keke's orders or not.

"it is not really clear at this stage...his men, whether Harold Keke was with them, or his men do it on their own is something still to be confirmed"

A large squad of police has been stationed on the Weather Coast for the past eight months but police officials in Honiara say they are not actively pursuing Keke, but guarding villagers who feel threatened by him.

Keke has been blamed for as many as 30 killings over the past year.

Most recently a number of the victims are thought to have been one time supporters of the rebel leader.

Keke meanwhile continues to hold hostage six members of the Melanesian Brotherhood church group, who went to negotiate with him early this month.