Fijian Soldiers Fire At British Diplomats’ Jeep
SUVA, Fiji (AP) _ Fijian soldiers today shot out the tires of a jeep in which two British diplomats were traveling after the envoys refused to let them search the vehicle, the Australian Associated Press reported.
No one was hurt, the news agency said.
It said the shooting occurred when British Consul Jim Liddel and assistant defense adviser Lt. Col. Mike Busby were stopped as they tried to leave the dock area of Suva harbor after visiting a ship.
Britain’s deputy high commissioner, Rod Pullen, said High Commissioner Roger Barltrop had made a strong verbal protest to Fiji’s Foreign Affairs Department. Pullen said a written protest would follow.
AAP said that as Liddel and Busby drove up to a military checkpoint at the exit from the docks, they were stopped by soldiers with rifles who demanded to search the car.
The diplomats refused, saying the vehicle was immune from search under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, AAP quoted Pullen as saying.
The diplomats asked the sergeant in charge of the soldiers to contact his superior and the British High Commission, but he refused to do so, Pullen was quoted as saying.
A soldier fired shots into two of the jeep’s tires after Liddel backed the vehicle further into the port area to clear the exit, Pullen told AAP.
He said the gunfire began after the vehicle had stopped.
More than an hour later, Pullen negotiated the release of the diplomats and the jeep, which was towed away to have its tires repaired, AAP said.
Pullen was quoted as saying that Liddel and Busby at all times obeyed the soldiers’ instructions. He said the vehicle was not searched.
It was the first confirmed shooting by soldiers since a military coup on May 14 that overthrew the elected government of Prime Minister Timoci Bavadra.