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Mutinous PNG soldiers seize barracks

Mutinous PNG soldiers seize barracks

Staff and wires

WEWAK, Papua New Guinea -- Rebellious soldiers are reported to have taken over the Moem Barracks at Wewak on Papua New Guinea's northern coastline in protest over government cutbacks to the defense forces.

Two buildings have been burnt down and the armory broken into by the soldiers, PNG's Post-Courier newspaper Web site reports.

All commissioned officers and their families have fled the barracks, which houses the Second Royal Pacific Islands Regiment, which consists of four rifle companies.

The soldiers took over the barracks on Saturday and have presented a 13-point petition to PNG Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta.

No injuries have been reported so far but two buildings have been destroyed, including one that was burned down in a similar incident two years earlier. Asia
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Senior defense commanders are en route to the barracks Monday in a bid to quell the mutiny.

Soldiers and officers who tried to fight the fire on Saturday were stopped by the disgruntled soldiers who also fired shots into the air, the Post-Courier says.

Sources on the ground said the group broke into the armory at about 10 am on Saturday, taking weapons and ammunition. They also took control of two military vehicles, one of them the barracks commander's car, it reports.

The PNG Government on Sunday described the situation as "an internal military issue" which would be dealt with through the military process.

PNG's the National newspaper Web site reports a spokesman for the soldiers as saying the rebels represent all the non-officers at the barracks.

The armed soldiers would man the main gate to the barracks to prevent officers returning for the next seven days (from Saturday) until the government gave the rebels a satisfactory response to their grievances, the spokesman is quoted as saying.




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