Thursday, July 13, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Fiji rebels free 9 hostages
Australia, NZ threaten to slap sanctions

SUVA, July 12 (Reuters) — Fijian rebels freed nine of their hostages in the Capital Suva today and rebel supporters staging a land rights protest allowed 45 tourists to leave at an exclusive island resort.

The Red Cross in Suva confirmed the release before dawn of nine of the 27 hostages held by rebel leader George Speight, whose gunmen stormed the country’s parliament on May 19 demanding the entrenchment of ethnic Fijian rights.

Deposed Ethnic Indian Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and his son Rajendra were not among the freed hostages but another son, Sachin, said he was hopeful Speight would stick to a deal he forged with Fiji’s military rulers on Sunday to free all of the hostages by Thursday.

“I’ve been in touch with the Red Cross and my mother and I are very encouraged by what we’ve been told,” Sachin Chaudhry told Reuters. “Because nine hostages were freed today, we expect my father and brother to be home by tomorrow.”

The nine hostages freed on Wednesday were taken by bus from inside the Parliamentary Complex at around 1:30 a.m. (1330 Tuesday GMT) to a Red Cross station before returning to their homes, a rebel spokesman said.

Seven of those released were ethnic Indians, the rebel spokesman said.

SYDNEY: Fiji faces diplomatic, military and trade sanctions should rebel leader Speight be included in a new government, Australia and New Zealand warned on Wednesday.

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