Fiji arrests 16 over PM assassination plot

Other News Materials 5 November 2007 08:20 (UTC +04:00)

(Reuters) - Fiji police have arrested 16 people over an assassination plot against the South Pacific island nation's coup leader and prime minister.

More arrests are possible and police have asked for military assistance, Fiji Police Commissioner Esala Teleni said on Monday.

"Our intelligence has received information that several suspects and others are believed to be armed. Hence my request for military assistance because the police cannot handle it on their own," Teleni told a news conference in Suva.

Police did not release details of the assassination plot against Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, the military chief who came to power in a 2006 coup, prompting opposition politicians to accuse his regime of tightening control of Fiji.

Bainimarama narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in 2000 during a failed bloody army mutiny. The military chief was forced to flee his barracks in Suva over a fence and into bushes.

Police said they would lay charges on Monday against the 16 people arrested over the past two days.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said one of those arrested, a New Zealand man, had been beaten so badly he was unable to talk and was being detained in a Suva hospital.

"It's absolutely terrifying. No person should be treated like this," Clark told Radio NZ on Monday.