• Death toll soars to 10 as residents threaten reprisals • Cops now face protest calls for $100,000 bounty on chief
Police in the Solomon Islands have found the charred bodies of three people believed to have been burnt alive in the country’s Chinatown following days of protests and riots in Honiara, the capital.
Five policemen were also wounded on Friday as residents reacted to the police killing of a man, believed to be the son of the area’s leader, Nengani Tetaisua. The death, which followed a standoff between police and supporters of Tetaisua on Wednesday, has sparked protests and community-level clashes with riot police.
The local police commissioner, Lawson Kubu, told local media on Saturday that the three bodies found at a local dump would not be identified until DNA testing could be completed. “We are now about to work out the DNA of all the six bodies they are holding,” he said.
Police command received three credible reports that as many as five bodies were burned alive, Kubu added.
Police commissioner Lawson Kubu said police had been negotiating with the family to extract the body from the area. Photograph: CHRISTOPHER BLEMISH/AFP/Getty Images
Tetaisua remains in police custody and will appear in court on Monday on charges of assaulting police.
The protests, which have been sparked by Tetaisua’s arrest, have spiralled into violence, with arsonists targeting property and more than a dozen vehicles, including the mayor’s office.
Harinder Singh, the deputy secretary general of the Solomon Islands Progressive party, said Tetaisua’s supporters were now considering a $100,000 (or £79,000) bounty on the police chief, Edward Tagle.
Tetaisua’s son, Richard Tetaisua, said his family would fight to get the body of his father released. Photograph: CHRISTOPHER BLEMISH/AFP/Getty Images
“In the longer term I would want to see some co-operation and help, but in the short term we have been frustrated and we want the body out of this place so we can deal with other issues,” he said.
“Not only that, I’d like for [Tagle] to leave.”
The Solomon Islands became independent from Australia in 1978. It is now one of the world’s poorest nations with an average annual income of just under £700.
Neighbouring Papua New Guinea – which experienced its own violent protests last month – provides most of the region’s people with food, shelter and other basics but has not been immune to unrest.