SUVA, Fiji -- A bomb exploded in a car in central Suva Saturday night, killing an Indian and injuring two others, officials said Sunday.
They were the first casualties since Col. Sitiveni Rabuka, 39, staged the second coup in Fiji's 17-year history to prevent the majority Indian community from gaining political power over indigenous Melanesians.
'The bomb exploded in a vehicle with three people in it Saturday night as they were traveling away from Suva,' said Jim Dolliore, spokesman for the Australian Foreign Affairs Ministry in Canberra.
'It would appear the bomb exploded when the car braked suddenly and turned around. The two people injured were taken to a hospital where they have been placed under armed guard,' he said.
Police identified the dead man as Gynendra Prasad, 32, an employee of the University of the South Pacific in Suva. The two injured men, also believed to be Indians from Suva, were not named.
Sources told United Press International that the bomb appeared to be homemade, but it was not immediately known if the device had been planted in the car by others or whether the occupants intended to use it.
The explosion occurred at about 7:30 p.m. EDT, which was 2 hours after the start of a nightly curfew imposed by the military following the coup.
'A security guard discovered the three men parking the car on a seafront road in Suva,' one source said. 'They quickly drove off and the bomb went exploded as it was being held by one of the men.'
Police and the military refused to comment on the blast but said they would issue a statement later.
While jubilant native Fijians celebrated the coup and fearful Indians huddled in their homes, concern mounted that the coup leader would break ties with the British Commonwealth and declare the island nation a military-run republic.
'The possibility of Rabuka declaring a republic is very real,' a Western diplomat told United Press International.
Rabuka said he staged his second coup in five months, backed by troops of the Royal Fijian Military Forces, to prevent Governor General Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, representative of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II - Fiji's monarch -- from installing a bipartisan caretaker government including Melanesians and Fijians of Indian descent.
Rabuka justified both coups by playing on fears that the Indian majority would deprive native Melanesians of their land rights and cultural heritage.
If Rabuka were to declare a republic, in defiance of Queen Elizabeth II's sovereignty over the south Pacific nation, he would de facto exclude Fiji from the British Commonwealth.
In London, Buckingham Palace said the Queen was 'saddened by the latest developments in Fiji.'
In Canberra, officials said the Australian High Commissioner in Fiji talked with Ganilau, a Melanesian chief and the constitutional head of government.
They said Ganilau was being held under house arrest at his Suva residence, surrounded by troops.
The restrictions imposed on Ganilau indicated that Rabuka was prepared to challenge the authority of the governor general. In the May 14 coup, Rabuka had surrendered power to Ganilau after nine days.
'The governor general said he considers the coup illegal and that he is still the constitutional head of the country and that the caretaker government he has sworn in should be running the country under his administration,' Australian Foreign Affairs spokesman Jim Dolliore said.