23 May 2005

NZ Police on Bougainville are withdrawn following possible death threat

7:22 pm on 23 May 2005

A contingent of New Zealand police on the Papua New Guinea Island of Bougainville has been withdrawn following rumours of a death threat by a rebel leader.

Five community police officers have flown to Port Morseby after stories that a Meekamui leader wanted to kill a foreign policeman on the island.

The move coincided with PNG's Foreign Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, making a formal request for extra New Zealand police on the island.

The head of police in the province, Joseph Bemu, says the five members of the Bougainvile community policing project left for the capital before the rumour could be verified.

Assistant Commissioner Bemu says subsequent police investigations showed there was no substance to the threat.

"The rumour was confirmed untrue and we have ruled out the possibility of that actual threat. I think the story was cooked up somewhere only to create fear among my white community."

He says he believes it's safe for the New Zealanders to return as soon as possible.