[tuh-rah-wuh, tar-uh-wah, tah-rah-wah]
Tarawa, atoll (1990 pop. 28,802), capital of Kiribati, central Pacific, previously capital of the former British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. The administrative center of the atoll is Bairiki island. Betio island, the chief commercial center of country, is a port of entry through which copra and pearl shell exported. Tarawa is the site of a teacher's training college and a marine training school, as well as an international airport. The population is mainly Micronesian.

During World War II the colony headquarters were moved there from Banaba (formerly Ocean Island). Tarawa was occupied by the Japanese (1941-43) and fell to U.S. marines after a bloody battle. In the early 1990s the southern part of the capital, particularly Betio, had one of the highest population densities in the world, leading the government to resettle residents on less crowded islands.

Coral atoll (pop., 2005 prelim.: 45,989), Gilbert Islands, Kiribati. The site of Bairiki, the capital of Kiribati, Tarawa is made up of 15 islets along a reef 22 mi (35 km) long. Occupied by the Japanese during World War II, it was seized by U.S. Marines in 1943 after a costly battle. Now a commercial and educational centre, it exports copra and mother-of-pearl and has an extension of the University of the South Pacific. It was the capital of Gilbert and Ellice Islands until 1975.

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