Three burned bodies found in Solomon Islands after violent protests

(CNN) – Three charred bodies were found in a burning building in the Chinatown district of the Solomon Islands’ capital, Honiara, the first reported deaths after three days of violent protests in which more than 100 people were arrested.

Police are investigating the cause of their death and their identities, and have no further information to release at this time, Solomon Islands Police media agent Desmond Rave told CNN on Saturday.

“Honiara is pretty tense right now, but the city is getting back to normal,” Rave said.

Security forces have been unable to stop the riots in Honiara that began on Wednesday with protesters demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and the looting and burning of shops and businesses.

Many of the protesters come from the more populous province of Malaita, where there is resentment towards the government and opposition to its 2019 decision to end diplomatic ties with Taiwan and establish formal ties with China, according to Reuters.

The protesters are also calling on the government to limit ties with China, respect the self-determination rights of the Malaita people and resume development projects in Malaita province.

More than 100 people have been arrested as of Saturday, according to police, who called on protesters to stop looting and burning buildings and warned of more arrests if the riots did not stop.

To reinforce the local police, the troops of the Australian Defense Forces (ADF) arrived in Honiara this Friday, confirmed this Saturday the High Commissioner of Australia in the Islands.

Sharing a photograph of a RAAF C-17 troop carrier landing in the capital, Dr. Lachlan Strahan, Australian High Commissioner in the Solomon Islands tweeted: “ADF arrives in Honiara!”

Australia’s Joint Operations Command released photos this Saturday of soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 6th Brigade and 17th Brigade landing military transport aircraft as part of the “emergency assistance mission”.

Australian peacekeepers have been deployed at the request of the Solomon Islands government. His arrival comes after a third night of violence in which the prime minister’s residence was attacked and much of the capital burned to the ground, according to journalists from Agence France-Presse in Honiara.

The Australian Defense Ministry said it had also deployed the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Armidale patrol boat to the islands to support local forces in maritime security.

Papua New Guinea also sent a security team to the Solomon Islands on Friday following a request from the Pacific island nation, PNG Prime Minister James Marape said in a statement.

The security team, made up of 20 police officers and 15 members of the correctional service, is deployed to assist Solomon Islands Police in “stopping looting and vandalism” in Honiara, and is subject to increase if the need arises. read in the statement.

The Solomon Islands government declared a night curfew on Friday and advised all public servants to stay home. The curfew will last from 7 pm to 6 am every day, starting this Friday.

“During the period, only authorized agents can move within the city,” said a government statement.

On Friday, the central government advised all public servants to stay home due to the unrest, with the exception of essential workers, and encouraged staff to ensure they have food supplies “due to the uncertainty of the current situation.” .

On Thursday, a local journalist said there were fires in Chinatown and that police had lost control in eastern Honiara.

Elizabeth Osifelo at Honiara and Helen Regan at CNN contributed to this report.

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