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University obtains court order to ban protests

PAPUA NEW GUINEA – The University of Papua New Guinea has obtained a court order against further protest action after police on Wednesday opened fire on a crowd of students demonstrating against the country’s government.

The students were trying to march to the national parliament to continue a long-running protest against Prime Minister Peter O’Neill when the violence broke out.

Radio Australia reports at least 17 people were injured in the confrontation, including one who received a gunshot wound to the head.

An opposition member reportedly told the country’s parliament that four people had been killed, but the PNG government said claims of deaths were false.

There were also reports of fighting and looting in other parts of PNG, as well as a truck and a building at the university being set on fire.

The University has since obtained an injunction preventing students from protesting and boycotting classes.

Police have also brought in extra officers, including recruits from the police college, to deal with any further outbreaks of violence around the capital.

PNG’s Police Commissioner, Gari Baki, said an armed mob tried to burn down a police barracks, and that there were other confrontations between police and looters on Wednesday.

The organiser of the protest, activist Noel Anjo, told the ABC the event was always intended to be peaceful.

He said the students wanted to hand over a petition to O’Neill at parliament, but the police reacted aggressively.

“They started swearing at the students and throwing punches and kicking them and then they pulled the trigger and shot at them,” he said.

Government advisers said it was not clear whether police had fired warning shots or fired directly into the crowd.

In a statement later on Wednesday, Prime Minister O’Neill said: “A small group of students were violent, threw rocks at police and provoked a response that came in the form of tear gas and warning shots”.

“The factors that led to students being injured are yet to be ascertained,” he said, condemning “agitators responsible for instigating a violent confrontation”.

O’Neill said there would be an investigation into who was funding the students and any outside “agitators” encouraging them to protest.

“The people behind these protests have political agendas,” he said in a statement.

“Members of the opposition have been engaging with students. The blood of the injured students is on the hands of those members and their supporters.”