Updated: June 8, 2016 6:14 AM ET | Originally published: June 7, 2016 11:53 PM EDT

Police in Papua New Guinea on Wednesday opened fire on student protesters in the capital, Port Moresby, with reports claiming four deaths and up to 10 students injured.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) reports that the students — who have been calling for the ouster of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill over allegations of corruption and economic mismanagement — were prevented from marching from the University of Papua New Guinea to the Parliament.

Student protester Gerald Peni told ABC that officers “fired shots directly” at the crowd. “They fired tear gases, I was right in front,” he says. “And many of the students they fell, they got injured, we don’t know how many casualties we may have at the moment.”

The city’s general hospital reportedly confirmed that 10 injured people had been admitted. In the confusion following the incident, reports were unclear on casualties, but an ABC reporter tweeted that the country’s parliament was told four had been killed.

The prime minister has ordered an inquiry into “continued student unrest promoted by individuals outside the student body.” A statement from O’Neill’s office says the inquiry will also look into alleged “external funding” for the protests that have lasted weeks, the Guardian reports.

“The facts relayed to me are that a small group of students were violent, threw rocks at police and provoked a response that came in the form of tear gas and warning shots,” the prime minister says.

In a claim that could not be verified, O’Neill says the reports of deaths were made falsely by opposition politicians. “The factors that led to students being injured are yet to be ascertained,” he says.


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Write to Simon Lewis at simon_daniel.lewis@timeasia.com.

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