January 30, 2012 / 7:51 AM / 8 years ago

Papua New Guinea mutiny solders hand in their guns - media

(Reuters) - About 20 soldiers involved in last week’s attempted mutiny in Papua New Guinea handed in their guns on Monday after winning assurances they would not face prosecution over their actions, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

The soldiers had been holed up with their weapons at the Taurama barracks in the capital Port Moresby following a failed mutiny on January 26, aimed at restoring former prime minister Michael Somare to power.

But in a special ceremony on Monday, the solders handed back their weapons after Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah promised an amnesty for those involved, the ABC said.

Television images showed soldiers handing in their automatic rifles to Namah.

The leader of the mutiny, retired colonel Yaura Sasa, was arrested at the weekend and he remains in jail on charges of inciting mutiny.

Sasa has denied any wrongdoing, and said he was appointed military commander by Somare, who claims to be the country’s legitimate prime minister.

The mutiny follows a prolonged power struggle between Somare and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, who took office last August after Somare was ruled ineligible to remain a member of parliament due to illness and absence from the legislature.

Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court in December ruled Somare be reinstated as a parliamentarian and prime minister, but O’Neill rejected the ruling and parliament again voted him prime minister, leaving the country with two competing leaders.

Mineral-rich Papua New Guinea has been plagued by political instability and widespread corruption since independence from Australia in 1975.

U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil is in the process of developing a massive $15.7 billion (10 billion pounds) liquefied natural gas plant, the country’s biggest-ever resource project, although ratings agency S&P said the political uncertainty had hurt the country’s investment risk.

Reporting by James Grubel in Canberra; Editing by Ed Lane

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