Peacekeepers from Australia have been deployed to the Solomon Islands, which have been ravaged by riots.
Officials in Canberra said Friday that Australian peacekeepers landed in riot-torn Honiara overnight, securing essential infrastructure amid a “highly hazardous” scenario after days of anti-government protests left the Solomon Islands’ capital.
The first wave of Australia’s hastily dispatched troops arrived in the Pacific island nation less than a day after Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare called for assistance in quelling violent unrest that threatened to overthrow his government.
Sogavare said the rioting had “brought the Solomons to its knees” after he made the request, with much of Honiara’s Chinatown neighborhood set ablaze as demonstrators demanded his resignation.
Karen Andrews, Canberra’s Home Affairs Minister, said the Australian team, which included roughly 100 police and military personnel, was tasked with restoring law and order.
“Twenty-three Australian Federal Police were despatched immediately yesterday, and they are currently on the ground in Honiara,” she told Sky News. “More will be deployed today, around another 50,” she added.
“There is a lot of unrest in that area. We currently know that the riots has gotten worse over the last few days “she continued.
For decades, ethnic and political problems have plagued the archipelago nation of about 700,000 people.
Thousands of protestors surrounded parliament on Wednesday, burning fire to an outbuilding and shouting for Sogavare’s removal.
Since then, the protests have devolved into a bloodbath, with gangs of youths with sticks rampaging around the capital, looting stores and clashing with police.
“There are gangs roaming around, it’s really tense,” one local, who did not want to be identified, told AFP.
Thousands of looters disregarded police lockdown orders by racing through the streets with boxes, crates, and bulging sacks of items while fires crackled around them and plumes of thick black smoke billowed high above the city by late Thursday.
Buildings engulfed in flames, shopfronts smoldering, and corrugated roofs twisted and collapsed throughout the capital, according to images shared on social media.
Debris was thrown over the streets, including rubbish and tree limbs.
Among the buildings set ablaze were banks, schools, police stations, offices, and Chinese-owned companies.
Zhao Lijian, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, voiced “grave worry” and urged the Solomon Islands government to “take all necessary measures to protect the safety of Chinese citizens and organizations.”
Economic tensions fueled by the pandemic, as well as a long-running rivalry between people of the country’s most populated island, Malaita, and the Guadalcanal-based central government, have generated unrest.
Guadalcanal insurgents staged attacks against settlers in the late 1990s, mostly targeting Malaita residents, and for. The Washington Newsday Brief News is a daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C.