Death toll in Kanaky New Caledonia unrest reaches 10

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French security forces operating in the New Caledonian village of Saint Louis
French security forces operating in the New Caledonian village of Saint Louis near the capital Nouméa. Image: RRB/RNZ

By Patrick Decloitre, RNZ Pacific correspondent French Pacific desk

Riots in Kanaky New Caledonia claimed their 10th victim yesterday.

The death took place as a result of an exchange of fire between a group of rioters in the village of Saint Louis (near the capital Nouméa) and French gendarmes, local news media reported.

Nouméa Public Prosecutor Yves Dupas yesterday confirmed the incident and the fatality, saying the victim had opened fire on the French gendarmes, who then returned fire.

Gunfire exchanges had also been reported on the previous day, since French security forces had arrived on site.

A group of armed snipers were reported to have entered the Church of Saint Louis, including the victim who was reported to have opened fire, aiming at the gendarmes from that location.

The victim is described as the nephew of prominent pro-independence politician and local territorial Congress president Roch Wamytan.

Wamytan is also the Great Chief of Saint Louis and a prominent figure of the hard-line pro-independence party Union Calédonienne (UC).

On Sunday, during an election night live broadcast, he told public television NC la 1ère that “as the High Chief of Saint Louis and as President of the Congress, I find what is going on in Saint Louis really regrettable”.

“We will try to address the situation in the coming days,” he said.

On Sunday night, French gendarmes had to evacuate two resident religious sisters from the Saint Louis Marist Mission after armed rioters threatened them at gunpoint and ordered them to leave.

It is the 10th name on the official death toll since violent riots broke out in New Caledonia on May 13.

The toll includes two French gendarmes.

French security forces had launched an operation in Saint Louis on Tuesday in a bid to restore law and order and dismantle several roadblocks and barricades erected by rioters in this area, known to be a pro-independence stronghold.

Car jacking
Several other incidents of car jacking had also been reported near the Saint Louis mission over the past few days on this portion of the strategic road leading to the capital Nouméa.

The incidents have been described by victims as the stealing of vehicles, threats at gunpoint, humiliation of drivers and passengers, and — in some cases — burning the vehicles.

Some of the victims later declared they had been ordered to take off their clothes.

A maritime ferry was set ablaze in Nouméa’s Port Moselle on 9 July 2024 – Photo Facebook
A maritime ferry was set ablaze in Nouméa’s Port Moselle on Tuesday. Image: FB/RNZ

Nearby Mont-Dore Mayor Eddie Lecourieux strongly condemned the actions as “unspeakable” and “unjustifiable”.

On Tuesday evening, another incident involved the burning of one of the maritime ferries – used by many as an alternate means to reach Nouméa.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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