14 Sep 2002

Solomons police free all suspects in boat seizure incident

2:02 am on 14 September 2002

Police in Solomon Islands have released three teenagers who they arrested during Thursday's operation to retake a ship off Honiara.

About 150 police, using tear gas, were involved in the operation to seize the ship from what police describe as criminal elements from North Malaita.

They arrested a 13-year old and two 15-year-old boys but set them free.

Last Saturday, police stood by and watched when the vessel was taken by gunmen.

On Wednesday, the deputy police commissioner said the incident was not a police matter but a compensation issue in line with Malaita custom.

It is not known whether police will try to arrest the people who they saw steal the ship.

The gunmen took the boat after a rumour had reached Honiara that people from Langalanga, which is on Malaita, were responsible for the disappearance at sea of eight people from North Maliata two weeks ago.

The gunmen also beat three Langalanga people and told police to back off.

Several cars and a bus were also burnt in response to the rumour but police say they have no knowledge of that.