Armed Gang Boards and Robs Tourist Boat Near Ouvea, New Caledonia

June 27: A boat carrying Australian tourists was attacked by a gang armed with rifles and machetes off the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia, authorities said on Thursday (Jun 27).

Two Australian holidaymakers and three guides were exploring tropical waters and a coral atoll near the island of Ouvea on Monday afternoon when armed assailants approached their boat and opened fire, public prosecutor Alexis Bouroz said.

“A boat from Ouvea came to meet them with seven to eight people on board, some of them apparently armed with guns and machetes,” he said.

The attackers fired shots in the air, at the windshield and a fender of the boat before five or six of them boarded the tourist boat.

Although the tourists were only “lightly injured” [no further specifics available], the skipper was reportedly knocked to the deck by a blow to the face, Bouroz said.

The boat was then looted while one of its engines and electronic equipment was destroyed.

New Caledonia, which boasts the world’s largest enclosed lagoon, with magnificent coral, is a popular tourist destination.

New Caledonia’s tourism department condemned the violence, which it said targeted the very kind of small scale but high-yield tourism it wants to encourage.

“These tourists were staying on a luxury yacht, a trend with high growth potential … which respects the wishes of local people looking to develop responsible tourism”, it said.

The president of the assembly in New Caledonia’s southern province, Sonia Backes, said the attack was “highly detrimental” to tourism.

The “main perpetrator” has been identified and an investigation has been launched, Bouroz said.

A spokesperson from the Australian department of foreign affairs said it was “aware of media reports that a number of Australians were involved in an incident in New Caledonia”, adding: “We stand ready to offer consular assistance.”

Source: Channel News Asia

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