Suriname police pursue anti-migrant rioters accused of rape, arson, looting

By Cliffton Saridjan, AP
Monday, December 28, 2009

Suriname cops search for anti-migrant rioters

PARAMARIBO, Suriname — Police in Suriname arrested 15 more suspects Monday as they searched for anti-migrant rioters accused of rape, arson and looting in an explosion of violence that sent hundreds fleeing for their lives from a border town.

At least 35 men are already in custody, but Brazilian migrants who fled the gold mining town of Albina told reporters they were attacked by up to 100 men.

The riot began late Thursday after police said a Brazilian stabbed a local Maroon man, a descendant of runaway slaves.

Faced with a wave of reprisal attacks, an estimated 300 Brazilian and Chinese migrants fled to the capital of Paramaribo and are receiving food and shelter, said The Rev. Jose Vergilio, a Roman Catholic priest from Brazil who has lived in Suriname for eight years.

He said several terrified migrants jumped into the powerful Maroni River to escape the attackers.

Vergilio said relatives told him at least seven migrants are missing and presumed dead. They believe some bodies were lost in the river that demarcates the former Dutch colony’s border with French Guiana, he said.

Authorities said at least one suspect works for the local government.

“They attacked men and women, everything that was in front of them,” migrant Fernando Lima told Brazil’s Globo TV. “They burned gas stations and supermarkets. A lot of people were hurt.”

Other migrants told the TV station that the attackers were armed with knives, bottles and stones.

Police have confirmed no migrant deaths.

Thousands of Brazilians have crossed their South American neighbor’s border in recent years to search for gold and mining jobs.

Associated Press writer Jonathan M. Katz contributed from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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