Unidentified gunmen using armour-piercing ammunition are firing sporadically at vehicles on a road in New Caledonia, prompting major police action and a warning to travellers from Australia’s Department Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
French authorities in the territory have reopened the road south of Noumea but are closing it from 7pm local time in a curfew to ensure public safety.
In an update issued yesterday, DFAT stated: “We recommend particular caution when travelling on the RP1 through St Louis, which has been subject to occasional but serious security incidents, leading to road closures by local authorities.
DFAT continue to advise travellers to exercise normal safety precautions in New Caledonia.
Police are trying to end the shootings and attacks which have wounded 16 of their colleagues over the past three months. New Caledonia’s most wanted man, Ramon Noraro, reputedly involved in the violence, was killed in December in a shoot-out between rival groups in St Louis.
In the latest assault on police, combat ammunition was fired which penetrated an armoured police vehicle, Radio New Zealand reported.
Roadblocks have been set up repeatedly since late October, disrupting the lives of residents in the south of the main island. Radio New Zealand reported that a ferry service had been revived to allow for urgent trips to Noumea, and a female resident had lodged a complaint against the French state for failing to provide security, after ambulance drivers refused to come to her rescue when she had a heart attack.
The president of New Caledonia’s pro-independence party, Daniel Goa, blamed a small minority, who he said had disturbed public order with impunity for years and given St Louis a bad name. He appealed for calm.
DFAT adds: “Security incidents continue to occur in New Caledonia, often arising with little warning. Roadside incidents such as road blockages, car-jackings, stone-throwing and shooting have occurred. Major routes have been affected, including the highway north of Noumea, connecting Noumea with Tontouta International Airport, as well as the RP1 to the south-east, between Noumea and Mont Dore.”
Written by Peter Needham