Dozens massacred as tribal violence flares in Papua New Guinea
At least 24 people, including two pregnant women, have been brutally massacred in one of the worst outbreaks of tribal warfare in Papua New Guinea in recent years.
The victims, mainly women and children, were hacked and shot to death in a bloody weekend rampage in Hela province in the Highlands area of the Pacific nation, which lies just north of Australia.
James Marape, the prime minister, vowed to hunt down the “gun-toting criminals”, calling it “one of the saddest days of my life,” in a lengthy Facebook post.
“Your time is up,” he told the perpetrators. “To all who have guns and kill and hide behind the mask of community, learn from what I will do to the criminals who killed innocent people, I am not afraid to use the strongest measures on you,” he said.
Highland clans have fought each other in Papua New Guinea for centuries, but an influx of automatic weapons has caused the violence to escalate.
“Twenty-four people are confirmed dead, killed in three days, but could be more today,” Hela provincial administrator William Bando told AFP on Wednesday.
Mr Bando has called for at least 100 police officers to be sent to the area to back up the 40-strong local force.
Teddy Augwi, the local chief inspector, told the Post-Courier that the violence flared up on Saturday when six people returning from a ceremony near the village of Peta were set upon and murdered by the roadside.
“In retaliation on Sunday, 18 people were killed when the relatives of the deceased retaliated outside Karida village and, in an executed plan, raided, and using high-powered rifles shot dead the 18 people, including two pregnant women and children,” he said.
“This is not a tribal fight where the opposing villages face each other on friend, this is a fight in guerrilla warfare, meaning they play hide-and-seek and ambush their enemies,” he added.
According to AFP, Pills Pimua Kolo, a local health worker, said the violence was so frenzied that it was hard to recognise some of the body parts.
He posted images of remains bundled together in mosquito nets that had been transformed into makeshift body bags.
The prime minister expressed exasperation at the lack of resources to tackle the spiraling violence.
“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.
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