10 Sep 2002

Violence in Solomon Islands following mutilation rumours

4:11 am on 10 September 2002

Gunmen in Solomon Islands continue to hold an empty passenger vessel in Honiara amid a controversy over last month's disappearence of a motorised canoe with eight people on board.

The ship was seized by Malaitan militants at gunpoint at the weekend amid tension in town over rumours that the bodies of four of the eight people had been found with signs of mutilation.

Police say the rumours are not true but the claims have fueled an inter-Malaitan rivalry in Honiara, resulting in three men from Malaita's Langalanga area being beaten.

Gunmen also entered the market area and forced people from Langalanga to surrender their traditional shell money.

Meanwhile, reports from the Malaitan provincial capital, Auki, say the town has been virtually emptied after an estimated 150 men from North Malaita trashed a building on Monday morning.

The men reportedly attacked a building which belongs to the son of the man whose passenger boat was seized in Honiara.