Tourists witness armed standoff in Samoa

Passengers from an Air New Zealand flight have witnessed an armed standoff between police and protesters outside an international airport in Samoa, it has been reported.

Up to a hundred police, some of whom allegedly fired shots into the air, moved in on protesters who had blocked a road using boulders near the Faleolo International Airport, 40km west of Apia.

Some of the protesters, from the small village of Satapuala opposite the airport, were wearing masks and reportedly brandishing machetes during the clash.

The group was protesting against a proposal by the Samoan government to build a US-funded hospital in the village.

The clash happened on Friday afternoon in front of tourists leaving the airport, Samoa's Weekend Observer reported.

Passengers from an Air New Zealand flight were told by officers to keep clear for their own safety.

The Weekend Observer said the incident sent "shockwaves" through the Pacific nation.

A village matai or chief, Vaili Mimita II, said officers fired shots into the air when protesters tried to go near them.

During the clash Mr Mimita tried to wrestle a gun from one of the officers and was told: "Back off if you want to live."

He did what the officer told him as he feared people from his village may be killed, he said.

"The police were armed and some people from our village were also armed," Mr Mimita said.

"It would've been an all-out war, so I moved back and yelled at our village to retreat."

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi condemned the protesters' actions.

"Government will not sit by idle while thugs run amok on the streets," he told Savali News.

"Who do they think they are blocking public roads and holding up motorists and tourists?"

He planned to charge MP Toesulusulu Cedric Schuster with treason for his alleged involvement in the protest.

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