Sparks fly as rival gang factions clash in downtown Solomons capital

A group of Solomons protestor burned the body of a suspected Wickham Kingman gang member who was killed by police over the weekend in a rampage in Chinatown following the death of one of the gang members in a gun battle with police. An unidentified foreigner — possibly from Hong Kong or China — was also attacked by protestors who lit himself ablaze and challenged the authorities to an “armed conflict”.

More than 20 people were arrested as mobs began looting the shelves of cash machines. The rioters were from the group known as the Wickham Kingman Incidents, which has claimed responsibility for several recent deadly police shootings. The mob that clashed with police on Sunday first ambushed and killed one of the group’s gang members, Kadafi Manae, and then took their guns and began shooting at the authorities. At least six police officers were injured, and the U.S. Consulate warned Americans in the country to stay in their homes and avoid crowded areas.

Meanwhile, the Australian government sent in aid to combat the rioters and identified one of the groups’ leaders as Abdoulie Netvou. His father, Abu Dhume, told the media, “All what they are doing is robbing the Chinese.”

There have been a slew of recent reports of what appear to be sectarian, racially motivated killings in the Solomon Islands — which has a population of less than 400,000 people — and Papua New Guinea, sparking concerns that a cycle of vigilante-driven violence may spread.

On May 2, 17-year-old Mohamed Antar Ishak was shot dead during a gang fight with Indonesian workers at a construction site. Many believe he was killed by police because he was from the ethnic Malaitanese, and he was a suspected member of the Wickham Kingman gang, which is suspected of carrying out more than 100 murders since 2000. On May 7, a gunman shot three Malaitan youths at a kabari soccer game in Honiara. A 12-year-old bystander, a 17-year-old boy, and a 13-year-old boy were also wounded.

In an attempt to quell the violence, interim Solomons Prime Minister Ralph Regenvanu addressed the nation over the weekend and announced the formation of a “national war committee” and launched an investigation into the police shootings. When asked by a reporter, he said that to address the problem, “we need people from the police and from the opposition to talk to each other, not just parties. If we just rely on our parties to do that and support each other, we will continue to have problems like this.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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