New Zealand joins regional effort to calm restive Solomon Islands

FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises above buildings after days of unrest in Honiara, Solomon Islands November 25, 2021 in this still image obtained from a video recorded on November 25, 2021 and obtained November 27, 2021. Jone Tuiipelehaki/via REUTERS

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand said on Wednesday that it will deploy military and police personnel in the Solomon Islands, joining efforts by Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea to help restore peace in the Pacific island nation following anti-government rioting.

An initial military assessment team of approximately 15 personnel would be deployed from Thursday followed by a larger group of up to 50 military and police personnel at the weekend, the New Zealand government said in a statement.

"We are deeply concerned by the recent civil unrest and rioting in Honiara, and following yesterday’s request of the Solomon Islands Government, we have moved quickly to provide urgent assistance to help restore sustained peace and security," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in the statement.

The Solomon Islands government had formally requested assistance from New Zealand earlier this week.

Dozens of buildings were burnt down and shops looted in the capital Honiara last week as protests against prime minister Manasseh Sogavare turned to rioting in which four people died.

Australia and Papua New Guinea have already sent security personnel to the Solomon Islands to help restore order in Honiara, following an earlier request from Sogavare's government. Fiji has said it would also send 50 troops on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon)

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