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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 December, 2004, 07:25 GMT
Peacekeeper shot dead in Solomons
Australian Federal Police officer Adam Dunning (undated photo)
Adam Dunning was shot twice
An Australian policeman has been shot dead in the Solomon Islands, the first casualty in Australia's peacekeeping operation in the South Pacific.

Adam Dunning, 26, was shot twice in the back while on patrol in the Solomons capital Honiara.

The incident occurred in an area that was controlled by armed gangs before the arrival of an Australian-led peacekeeping force in summer 2003.

The force, once more than 2,000 strong, has been scaled back to about 300.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty said the shooting, by an automatic weapon at about 0300 local time (1600 GMT Tuesday), bore "the hallmarks" of a sniper attack.

Prime Minister John Howard said the incident would not deter the remaining peacekeepers from their task.

The message for the Solomon Islands people who have carried out this murder is we will not be put off
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty

"It is a reminder that although the intervention has been remarkably successful, it is still dangerous," he told reporters. "The mission goes on, undeterred, unrestrained, unaffected by what's happened."

His counterpart in the Solomons, Allan Kemakeza, condemned the killing.

"My government and people condemn this barbaric act by a person who can only be described at best as inhumane and sick in the mind," he said in a statement.

Mr Keelty said the attack was obviously targeted at Australia's Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (Ramsi), because Mr Dunning was travelling in a clearly marked vehicle.

"Clearly the shooting would be in retaliation to the work of Ramsi, which has been extraordinarily successful until today," he said. "The message for the Solomon Islands people who have carried out this murder is we will not be put off."

Some 2,225 troops and police from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Tonga arrived in the Solomons in July 2003 to restore order and disarm ethnic gangs.

They succeeded in clearing the streets of thousands of weapons and remanding key militant commanders in custody.

A smaller contingent of police and troops have stayed on to ensure the stability continues.

As part of Australia's new-found role as peacekeeper in the South Pacific, the country has also begun sending police officers and bureaucrats to Papua New Guinea. It will send 210 police and more than 60 other officials in total.

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