Thu, Jul 11, 2019 - Page 6 News List

PNG leader vows justice for two dozen massacred

AFP, PORT MORESBY

At least 24 people have died — including two pregnant women — in tribal fighting in Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) highlands, prompting the prime minister yesterday to promise swift justice.

Local officials said the massacres happened in Hela Province in a three-day spasm of violence between rival tribes.

Highland clans have fought each other in 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,” Hela Provincial Administrator William Bando said. “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 about 40 local officers.

The incident has shocked both the nation and new PNG Prime Minister James Marape, whose constituency includes the district where the killings occurred.

He vowed more security deployments and warned the perpetrators “your time is up.”

“Today is one of the saddest day of my life,” he said in a statement.

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

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

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

“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 added that the death penalty was “already a law.”

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

In nearby Enga Province, a similar surge in violence prompted the establishment of a makeshift military garrison and the deployment of a company of about 100 government soldiers under the command of a UK Royal Military Academy Sandhurst-trained major.

Marape has not yet provided details of the security deployments, but appeared exasperated by the 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.

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