Solomon Islands

Northeast of Australia in the South Pacific, the Solomon Islands chain consists of six main islands that are volcanic, mountainous, and forested—Guadalcanal is the most populous island. A strategic battleground during World War II, the islands gained independence from Britain in 1978. About 85 percent of the islanders are Melanesians, who speak some 92 indigenous languages. Ethnic tension between natives of Guadalcanal and settlers from nearby Malaita island escalated into armed conflict from 1998 until 2003, when an Australian-led peacekeeping force restored order.