New Caledonia has a population of only 145,000, but it is divided in a way that guarantees tension. The Melanesians, who are known as Kanaks, make up the largest single group on the islands, but they are outnumbered by the combination of whites and Asians from other countries.
According to the police account of those killings, gendarmes had surrounded a group of Melanesian separatists at another farm near Thio. Instead of surrendering their arms as ordered, the police said, the Melanesians began shooting. Gendarmes were then ordered to fire, the police said, but only with the intent of wounding. Machoro and an associate, Marcel Nonaro, moved as they were shot, the police said, and were killed.
Machoro, who had made two trips to Libya seeking support for independence, was regarded as the most militant [Kanak] separatist in New Caledonia. His band was the last to dismantle roadblocks on New Caledonia after [Edgard Pisani] was sent to the colony in early December to try to negotiate a compromise solution.