Football riot in Solomons

BY MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 09:04 16/11/2009

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South Pacific

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A football riot in the Solomon Islands over the weekend has alarmed authorities there, with regional military peacekeepers put on alert.

One building was destroyed in the capital Honiara and a shop in China Town looted.

New Zealander Peter Marshall, who is commissioner of the Royal Solomon Islands Police (RSIPF), said he was deeply troubled by events on Saturday and has launched a criminal investigation.

The riot occurred in the first game of the Solomon Cup between Honiara and Malaita. When the referee refused to award a goal to Malaita in the second half, supporters invaded the ground and destroyed the Solomon Islands Football Federation building.

Mr Marshall said there were large numbers of police at the ground but they were outnumbered.

"Police officers were outnumbered at the scene, and when a RSIPF fire engine arrived on the location it then came under attack from rock throwing offenders," he said.

"The fire truck was forced to retreat and a fire officer was struck by a rock.

"Three other police officers were injured by people throwing rocks, though fortunately their injuries were not serious and they did not require hospitalisation."

Marshall said the crowd of over a thousand people moved through the China Town area and one retail premises was forcibly entered and a large amount of merchandise was stolen. A number of cars, including a police vehicle, were stoned and subsequently damaged.

Following ethnic tensions - mainly between Malaitans and the indigenous Guadalcanal people - a Regional Assistance Mission (RAMSI) provides police and military personal.

Mr Marshall said RAMSI was put on stand-by.

In the event they were not needed as the crowd dispersed.

Mr Marshall said they will now talk to the Football Federation.

"It is obviously totally unacceptable for large elements of the crowd to behave as they did. Police officers were injured doing their duty and property was damaged and stolen by criminal elements who took advantage of the situation that unfolded.

"At this stage there is no evidence to suggest the attacks were premeditated" he added.

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