19 Oct 2004

A Bougainville official says an unauthorised plane may have brought weapons for rebels

9:20 pm on 19 October 2004

The administrator of the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville says he suspects an Australian plane flew in weapons to an area held by the rebel leader, Francis Ona.

Police have charged the plane's Australian owner and pilot for landing illegally, and are hunting for another Australian and a British man who are thought to have vanished into the jungle on the island.

Peter Tsiamalili says people near the deserted mine at Panguna noticed new weapons in the area.

He links the the appearance of the arms to the plane, which landed a fortnight ago

"There are new weapons that are sighted in Panguna, by the people themselves, who are on the ground, so that's the evidence. We have a very strong suspicion that these new weapons have been brought in, through this aircraft that has landed on the decommissioned airport on Bougainville, at Aropa."

A local newspaper says the weapons have enabled Francis Ona to begin military training with a thousand men.