Horrific tribal fighting in PNG

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 11 Jul 2019

Twenty-four people have died - including two pregnant women with their unborn children - in tribal fighting in Papua New Guinea's lawless highlands, prompting the prime minister to promise swift justice.

Local authorities said at least 24 people had been killed in Hela province, a rugged region in the west of the country, in a three-day spasm of violence between rival tribes.

Highland clans have fought each other in Papua New Guinea for centuries, but an influx of automatic weapons has made clashes deadlier and escalated the cycle of violence.

Hela provincial administrator William Bando said the death toll could rise, and he has called for at least 100 police to be deployed to reinforce local officers.

Among the people most shocked by the incident is the recently appointed prime minister, James Marape. His constituency includes the district where the killings occurred. And in pledging more security deployments, he warned the perpetrators "your time is up" and noted that the death penalty "is already a law."

Talking of "the saddest day of my life," he said children and mothers had been murdered in Munima and Karida villages.

In the Karida attack, fighters are said to have hacked and shot six women and eight children plus two pregnant women and their unborn children in a 30-minute rampage.

Local health worker Pills Kolo said it was hard to recognize victims, and remains were bundled together using mosquito nets as makeshift body bags.

Images provided by local police showed the corpses of two children of school age, one with severe head injuries.

Reports were that the attack was retaliation for the ambush and murder of six people the day before.

While that claim had to be confirmed, it is a fact many fights are fueled by old rivalries prompted by rape, theft and disputes over tribal boundaries.

But this is the most serious incident in years, and the government, which has only 40 police officers and 16 soldiers in the area, will be hard pressed to respond.


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