Crime

Fear Grips Residents After Gang Attacks In Labasa

Residents of Benau Settlement, Labasa, say they are living in fear after five houses were targets of attacks by a gang. The gang allegedly damaged vehicles, stole religious materials from
22 May 2019 13:58
Fear Grips Residents After Gang Attacks In Labasa
Puspha Lata points at the damage done on her car at Benau, Labasa on May 20, 2019. Photo: Shratika Naidu

Residents of Benau Settlement, Labasa, say they are living in fear after five houses were targets of attacks by a gang.

The gang allegedly damaged vehicles, stole religious materials from a temple, removed light bulbs and car tyres.

Gang members were also said to have thrown stones on the roofs of homes while the families slept at night and during broad daylight.

The incidents allegedly happened between last Friday and Sunday.

Four people have been arrested and more are likely to taken in today, Police say.

Police Commissioner Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho said Police would do everything in their power to apprehend all those who were allegedly responsible.

Residents fearful, tell of damages and attacks

Gripped with fear, a senior citizen, Nagamma, described how she hid under her bed as stones rained on the roof of her home during the day.

Nagamma inside her temple. She shows where the missing worship materials were kept at Benau, Labasa on May 20, 2019. Photo: Shratika Naidu

Nagamma inside her temple. She shows where the missing worship materials were kept at Benau, Labasa on May 20, 2019. Photo: Shratika Naidu

Her son, Bal Krishna, a vendor at Labasa Market, said three idols, a radio and other items were stolen from his temple over the weekend.

The temple is situated a few metres away from his home.

“The different coloured light bulbs around the temple were also stolen. The stolen items were worth about $1200,” said Mr Krishna.

“I have been staying in this area since childhood and this is the first time we have been insulted and robbed of our right to worship.

“I don’t know who was responsible- to have to steal the idols of our gods from the temple.

“My 69-year-old mother Nagamma is in so much fear that she hides under the bed.”

Bal Krishna’s brother Ram Krishna, 40, who lives nearby, said someone damaged the windscreen of his car and threw stones on the roof of his house.

“I am unemployed and very poor and I live with my wife and four-year-old daughter, Manisha,” he said

“We were so afraid that we didn’t come out of the house to check who was throwing stones and damaging the car.

“We held each other, praying to God to spare us.

“I bought this old model car a few years ago for family use and now I don’t know where I will get $600 to replace the windscreen since I don’t have a job.”

Ram Krishna with his daughter, Manisha Krishna, look at the damages done on his car at Benau, Labasa on May 20, 2019. Photo: Shratika Naidu

Ram Krishna with his daughter, Manisha Krishna, look at the damages done on his car at Benau, Labasa on May 20, 2019. Photo: Shratika Naidu

John Sami, who lives some distance away, also had the windscreens of his vehicle damaged on Sunday night.

“My wife was alone at home and she heard someone damaging the car parked in the driveway and she called my sons to return home from a magic show,” he said.

“I have been living in Benau for so many years and this is the first time such a thing has happened.

“I will have to spend about $1300 to fix the damage. And we are very frightened to live in our own house now.

“I reported the matter at Labasa Police Station and requested the Police to carry out patrols in the area and catch the culprits.”

Another resident, Deo Chand, 58, said someone removed three brand new tyres from his car.

“I suspect someone stole the tyres after midnight on Saturday and when we searched around, we found them in the nearby jungle,” said Mr Chand.

“Just recently I have seen a group of both young and old men sitting near the road after midnight smoking.

“We have heard that this group smokes marijuana. Something needs to be done before someone’s house is burned or before someone is murdered.”

Anwar Shah, 47, said someone removed coloured light bulbs from the veranda of his house while his wife and three children were sleeping inside. He was away in Suva.

“We couldn’t find the bulbs and the sad part is while we are observing Ramadan, someone is trying to sabotage our preparation for Eid,” he said.

“I have been living here for 26 years and this is the first time such a thing has happened.

“We know who the suspects are and we urge the Police to do something because our children and women are living in fear.

“After this incident, I wake up after midnight and sit in the veranda like a watchman so that my family can sleep in peace.

“But for how long can I do this?” he asked.

Police take action

Brigadier-General Qiliho confirmed the incidents and said he had a discussion with the Divisional Police Commander Northern, Senior Superintendent of Police Eparama Waqa on the matter.

“DPC and the team had visited the families on Monday night, carried out the investigation, awareness and patrols around the area,” he said.

“We are very much concerned and are doing our utmost best to help these families.

“I am planning to come to Labasa soon and I will surely visit this area,” he said.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce

Feedback: shratikan@fijisun.com.fj

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