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Dogs of war leave Papuans to fate

Staff and Agencies

Dozens of African mercenaries hired by Papua New Guinea to put down an island rebellion headed home, leaving behind them a nation in turmoil and a standoff between army and government.

As police clamped down on fresh unrest, about 50 mercenaries flew out of Port Moresby - expelled by the soldiers they were meant to have fought alongside. Some later flew via Hong Kong to South Africa.

The crisis kept Papua's neighbours on guard. Australia, the country's former colonial ruler, said it had put its troops on increased readiness in case the crisis worsened.

Local radio reported that rioting had spread outside the capital yesterday, with police firing tear gas to disperse thousands of demonstrators in the northern town of Lae.