28 Apr 2003

Solomons police say violence has escalated on the Weather Coast

3:11 pm on 28 April 2003

Solomon Islands police say there have been exchanges of gun fire between police and the rebel warlord Harold Keke over the past two days on the remote Weather Coast of Guadalcanal.

It follows an increased police presence there after the Melanesian Brotherhood reported that Keke may have been responsible for the deaths of 21 people over the past month.

The Brotherhood confirmed on Friday that one of its members, Nathaniel Sado, was among those killed, and said in a statement that they had witness reports that Keke had killed 20 others, mostly former supporters.

The police spokesman Charles Lemoa says they have still to confirm the reports and sent a team to the Weather Coast last week to join other police who have been montoring Keke for the past six months.

He says there is a further need for police and a third team is about to be sent.

"The problem is that I think some of Mr Keke's followers are trying to resist and there is a report of an exchange of gunshots between Keke's group and the police officers that are currently staying there"