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Rebels Free Nine Hostages in Fiji

July 11, 2000

SUVA, Fiji (AP) _ Rebels on Wednesday freed nine of the 27 hostages they had been holding for more than six weeks in Fiji’s Parliament, police said.

A police spokesman said the hostages were turned over to the Red Cross around 1 a.m. and then went to their homes. They included all of the remaining ethnic Indian parliamentarians except for the deposed prime minister and his son.

The other remaining hostages are all ethnic Fijian legislators.

The release comes three days after the rebels, led by former businessman George Speight, signed an agreement with Fiji’s military government to end the hostage crisis. Under the agreement, Speight was supposed to release all his hostages Thursday. It was unclear what the early release signified.

The crisis began May 19, when rebels led by Speight stormed Parliament and took several dozen hostages, including then-Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry. The rebels are ethnic Fijians who say the nation’s large ethnic Indian minority has too much power. They demanded that the country’s multiracial constitution be scrapped and that Chaudhry, Fiji’s first ethnic Indian prime minister, be deposed.

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