SUVA, FIJI, SEPT. 25 -- Fiji Army commander Sitiveni Rabuka today staged his second coup in five months, vowing to put into effect his original plan to restore political power to ethnic Fijians over the larger Indian population.
Rabuka, a 39-year-old ethnic Fijian, declared over national radio that he had reassumed authority over the interim government led by Governor General Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau.
He imposed an immediate 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew throughout Fiji, a South Pacific island nation about 2,000 miles northeast of Sydney, Australia. There were no reports of injuries.
"I wish to assure all citizens, irrespective of race or creed, that the rule of law will be maintained," Rabuka said. "I appeal to everyone to remain calm and not to cause any disturbance."
In Washington, the State Department denounced the coup and cautioned American tourists to stay out of remote areas of the island.
"We deeply deplore this ill-advised action by Col. Rabuka to intervene once again in Fiji's political process," department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said.
"We hope that responsible leaders of all elements in Fiji will display mature restraint so that violence can be avoided and progress can continue toward a broadly based solution to Fiji's political crisis that will respect the rights of all the people of Fiji," she said.
Prime ministers Bob Hawke of Australia and David Lange of New Zealand also condemned the coup. Both countries prepared to send nonmilitary ships to Fiji in case tourists had to be evacuated.
The coup came after a week of ethnic violence and two days after Ganilau and Fiji's rival political parties agreed to form a bipartisan caretaker government.
Rabuka did not mention the agreement. But he said Ganilau, who represents Queen Elizabeth II in the former British colony, failed to guarantee ethnic Fijian control of the government.
Fijians make up 47 percent of the nation's 715,000 people. Indians, descendants of sugar plantation labor indentured during British rule, make up 49 percent. Fiji gained independence in 1970.
The Australian Associated Press news agency said Timoci Bavadra, leader of the Indian-majority coalition government ousted in Rabuka's first coup on May 14, was arrested after troops ransacked his home.
AAP said more than 50 soldiers went to Bavadra's home, fired shots into the ceiling and terrorized Bavadra's wife and nine children, but that no one was injured.
AAP also said there were unconfirmed reports that security forces detained two judges and two officials of the Fiji Sun newspaper.
Rabuka went on the radio 50 minutes after soldiers with automatic weapons stormed Suva's two newspapers and a commercial radio station at 4 p.m. Friday (midnight Thursday EDT) and ordered everyone to leave.
"I will be taking immediate steps to bring about the desired constitutional changes in a manner which will bring about lasting peace and prosperity in our beloved country," said Rabuka, who appointed himself head of the Army after his first coup.
Rabuka did not say how or when he intends to change the constitution, but said he would "keep the machinery of government functioning."
Shortly before curfew fell, downtown Suva was deserted except for patroling soldiers and a handful of police, AAP said.
Ganilau was reported safe at Government House in Suva and was not being detained, according to Australian Ambassador John Piper, who said he had spoken to Ganilau.
During the past week, ethnic Fijian youths smashed and looted Indian-owned shops in Suva.
On Wednesday, Bavadra and Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, the prime minister defeated by Bavadra last April, agreed to form a 20-member Council of State with equal representation from both their parties.
Under the agreement, Ganilau was to act as prime minister of the caretaker government. Ganilau was forced to cancel a radio address on the agreement.