Image copyright SGS Pacific Image caption Up to 50 people rallied in front of government offices in Honiara
Three charred bodies have been found in a village in Solomon Islands’ Chinatown area after weeks of unrest and violence, police have said.
Up to 50 people battled police and a mob of up to 700 people in Honiara on Thursday night before 17 police officers were injured.
Fifteen people have now been arrested.
Police say they are confident about arresting and prosecuting those responsible for the protests, which are believed to have begun over a beef ban.
Police said tensions boiled over during a gathering of supporters in the township of Witu, which is outside Honiara’s Chinatown.
One of the crowd allegedly pulled down an American flag, which sparked another brawl involving police, mobile soldiers and a mob of more than 600 people.
The rioters are believed to have beaten, stabbed and robbed dozens of people, though they left a trail of destruction that left the road to Chinatown under a blanket of white dust.
The attackers set fire to houses, cars and motorbikes, they said.
But the police said the biggest concern was protecting people’s property.
“One of the concerns was that if that (white dust) spread, it could have caused damage to the properties and had a wider effect,” Ka’amatarikau Sohor, SGH Commander, told the BBC.
“We’re concerned about that.”
The violence also prompted protesters to rally outside the country’s government office in Honiara, laying flowers, tributes and other items of remembrance and defiance in front of the building.
Police had said they could not control the situation as the crowd outside the offices on Thursday night mounted 30 explosions in support of their cause.
Photo: Pacific News Centre
It is thought tensions have been building among residents of Chinatown for a number of weeks after the government banned the sale of mutton, beef and other livestock.
Residents of the area have said the lack of livestock has forced the local community to eat barbecued foods, less nutritious and causing health concerns.
In the riots, groups of men have thrown stones at police as officers fought back by firing tear gas and rubber bullets.