Dozens of people were injured in Papua New Guinea after police opened fire on university students during an anti-corruption protest against Prime Minister Peter O'Neill. The PNG government denied earlier reports that said four people died in the violent confrontation with the police.
The incident on Wednesday resulted from ongoing political unrest in the island nation over calls for the resignation of Prime Minister Peter O'Neill on corruption allegations. The protest was held in the Waigani campus at the University of PNG. The trouble started when the police fired at the crowd to stop the students from marching on the parliament building.
Residents of Port Moresby said police opened fire and shot tear gas shells on the public to disperse crowds. Later there were other reports of protests in the PNG Highland cities of Goroka and Mt Hagen, and in Lae on the north coast. Several witnesses also claimed that the officers were punching and kicking them.
However, the PNG Government said claims of fatalities during the protest were false. The government said five students were taken to Port Moresby General Hospital after the confrontation but all of them were in a stable condition.
The Port Moresby General Hospital said 10 students were admitted in the hospital. In an interview with Reuters, a hospital official said: "Now there is a very big clash with the public and with the police just outside the Port Moresby General Hospital. There is also shooting going on, open gunfire."
Stacey Yalo, a student at UPNG, said people on the campus were trying to hide from the police. "The situation is really tense and everyone is so confused right now. It is coming to a point where they are actually targeting students as if they're criminals. They're shooting at them. They're out here to shoot and kill." she said.
Meanwhile, O'Neill refused to be interviewed by the national fraud and anti-corruption directorate and failed in a legal bid to prevent his own arrest.
Julie Bishop, Australia's foreign minister, requested both to sides to be calm and called for the authorities to respect the peaceful and lawful right to protest.
"I know students have been shot but we are still trying to determine whether there have been deaths, how many injured," She said.