26 Apr 2003

Reports that Solomons rebel leader may have killed 21

8:31 am on 26 April 2003

Church officials in Solomon Islands say that the rebel warlord Harold Keke may have killed 21 people in the past month.

In a statement the Melanesian Brotherhood, confirmed that one of their brothers, Nathaniel Sado, was killed a month ago on the remote Weather Coast of Guadalcanal.

Earlier this week it was reported that Keke had killed nine people at the end of March, including a member of the Brotherhood.

Police have not been able to confirm those deaths.

The Brotherhood says it now has witness reports that Brother Sado was badly beaten by Keke and others acting on his orders, and died after three days.

The Brotherhood also says it now has additional reports that a total of 20 of Keke's followers have been killed in the past month.

The church group says members of Keke's family and other followers have run away fearing they could also be killed.

The Brotherhood in its statement has called on all followers of Keke to leave him and put down their weapons.

Prior to these latest reports at least 26 deaths had been attributed to Keke over the past year, including the assassination of Cabinet Minister Fr Augustine Geve.