SUVA, Fiji - The military seized control of Fiji on Tuesday after weeks of threats, locking down the capital with armed troops and isolating at home the elected leader whose last-minute pleas for help from foreign forces were rejected.
The coup was the fourth armed takeover in the South Pacific country in 19 years, and had its roots in the same ethnic divide that produced the previous three.
Commodore Frank Bainimarama, the armed forces chief, announced in a nationally broadcast evening statement that, "As of 6 o'clock this evening, the military has taken over the government, has executive authority and the running of this country."
He said he had assumed some powers of the president and was using them to dismiss Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, elected in May.
He named Dr. Jona Senilagakali, a military medic with no political experience, as caretaker prime minister and said a full interim government would be appointed next week to see the country through to elections that would restore democracy sometime in the future.
The move was denounced by elected officials and the president, the police force, and countries and international organizations with connections with Fiji.
"The government they want to set up will be totally illegal," Qarase told a small group of reporters inside his house in Suva, where he said he was under effective house arrest. "What the military commander has done has raped our Constitution."
New Zealand announced it was suspending defense ties with Fiji and would ban its military officers from traveling to the country. Bainimarama is believed to have children living in New Zealand.
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