Fiji PM says 50 peacekeepers headed to crisis-hit Solomon Islands

Honiara (AFP) – Fiji will deploy 50 troops to an Australian-led peacekeeping force in the Solomon Islands following anti-government rioting that razed parts of the capital Honiara, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said Monday.

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The Fijian contingent will lift the number of peacekeepers to about 200 troops and police officers, mostly Australian with a contribution of at least 34 personnel from Papua New Guinea.

"Out of concern for the safety and well-being of our Pacific sisters and brothers in the Solomon Islands, 50 Fijian troops will dispatch to Honiara tomorrow as part of reinforced platoon embedded with Australian force elements to help maintain peace and security," the Fijian leader tweeted.

The Solomons crisis erupted last week with three days of deadly rioting in Honiara blamed partly on poverty, hunger and frustration with government policies in the Pacific island nation of 800,000.

During the riots, which claimed at least three lives, mobs attempted to torch the prime minister's private residence and parliament before being dispersed by police firing tear gas and warning shots.

The Fiji deployment comes as Honiara residents continue to clean up the shattered capital, where much of the Chinatown area was reduced to smouldering rubble.