Written by By Zohreen Adamjee, CNN
Three bodies found in the Pacific archipelago of Solomon Islands have been identified as local university students involved in anti-government protests, the country’s prime minister said on Saturday.
“It is a miracle they were not hit by bullets from helicopters hovering above the protesters,” Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo said at a news conference in Honiara.
“The students’ bodies were all crushed by the police.”
An anti-government protest in Honiara on May 20.
Authorities used tear gas and water cannons to break up Monday’s demonstration, and at least seven people have died and many more have been wounded in the protests.
“The photo of three young people, identified as healthy students, has been examined by the accredited experts for their DNA, and the positive identification was determined by Prof. Sir John Ambrosia,” Lilo said, referring to the Solomon Islands leader.
“It is unfortunate that the students at the University of the South Pacific, who are students of our nation, were unfortunately killed in their protests. This tragedy brings all of us to a zero-zero state. All citizens and visitors should have the right to feel safe and secure on our island nation.”
Lilo promised that “the necessary action will be taken to pursue those responsible for this crime against our young people, regardless of their political affiliation or class.”
The young man’s body was found on Friday, while the bodies of the two other protesters were found earlier this week. All three were found buried near the University of the South Pacific campus.
The Malaita Eagle Force — a vigilante group seeking to overthrow the government — claimed responsibility for the killings, saying it was protecting the prime minister and his family from violent protesters.