Australia sends troops to Solomon Islands as city burns in violent riots

Australia will deploy dozens of Australian Federal Police officers to the Solomon Islands in a bid to ease civil unrest.

Protesters in the Solomon Islands have defied a lockdown and set fire to buildings in the capital in a second day of unrest.

Australia's National Security Committee has reportedly called a meeting on Thursday morning amid reports and images shared on social media of crowds of protesters and burning buildings in the Chinatown district of Honiara.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australian police will be deployed in the Solomon Islands to support its police force during civil unrest. Source: AAP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday afternoon he has been in touch with the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands Manasseh Sogavare.

Mr Morrison has also spoken with his New Zealand and Fijian counterparts.

"Our presence there does not indicate any position on the internal issues of the Solomon Islands," he said.

"We anticipate this will be a deployment for a number of weeks.

"Our Pacific family is very dear to us as Australians."

Twenty-three police officers are currently flying over with a further 50 ADF and AFP officers to follow in the coming days.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne told reporters staff and their families at the Australian mission in Honiara are safe.

Buildings burn as lockdown declared

Media reports said people had travelled from the most populous province of Malaita to the capital because of concern about being overlooked by the national government.

The province opposed a 2019 decision to end diplomatic ties with Taiwan and establish formal links with China, resulting in an independence referendum last year which the national government has dismissed as illegitimate.

Buildings burn in the Solomon Islands during protests.
Protesters burn buildings in the Solomon Islands. Source: Reuters

Mr Sogavare on Wednesday declared a 36-hour lockdown in Honiara after the latest unrest, calling it "another sad and unfortunate event aimed at bringing a democratically elected government down".

The lockdown, which will run until 7am on Friday, would "allow our law enforcement agencies to fully investigate the perpetrators of today's events and to prevent further lawless destruction", Mr Sogavare said.

The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force urged people attending schools and businesses around Honiara to stay home to avoid being affected by unrest.

"We want to make sure that our streets, schools and businesses will reopen soon after the lockdown," said the police force's Deputy Commissioner Juanita Matanga in a statement.

"I am asking for your co-operation until the situation turns normal."

with AAP

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