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24 people, including two pregnant women, killed in tribal massacre in Papua New Guinea

The deaths happened in the Hela province in a three-day spasm of violence between rival tribes.

File photo - Papua New Guinea
File photo - Papua New Guinea
Image: Shutterstock/travfoto

TWENTY-FOUR PEOPLE have died – including two pregnant women with their unborn children – in tribal fighting in Papua New Guinea’s lawless highlands.

The deaths happened in the 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 more deadly and escalated the cycle of violence.

“Twenty-four people are confirmed dead, killed in three days, but could be more today,” the Hela provincial administrator William Bando told AFP. “We are still waiting for today’s brief from our officials on the ground.” 

Bando has called for at least 100 police to be deployed to reinforce some 40 local officers.

The attack

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

A local health worker said it was hard to recognise some of the body parts and posted images of remains 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.

Local media has reported the attack appeared to be in retaliation for the ambush and murder for six people the day before.

However, is not clear what prompted the attack, but many fights are fuelled by old rivalries prompted by rape or theft, or disputes over tribal boundaries.

In light of the incident, Prime Minister James Marape, whose constituency includes the district where the killings occurred, has vowed more security deployments.

“Today is one of the saddest day of my life,” he said in a statement. “Many children and mothers innocently murdered in Munima and Karida villages of my electorate.”

“Gun-toting criminals, your time is up,” Marape said.

Learn from what I will do to criminals who killed innocent people, I am not afraid to use strongest measures in law on you.

He noted that the death penalty was “already a law”. 

Marape has not yet provided details of the security deployments but he has appeared exasperated by the current resources available.

“How can a province of 400,000 people function with policing law and order with under 60 policemen, and occasional operational military and police that does no more than band-aid maintenance,” he said. 

Includes reporting by © AFP 2019

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