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Monday, 19 February 2024 15:57

64 Dead in Papua New Guinea Tribal Violence

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Officials patrolling near the town of Wabag, 600 kilometres northwest of the capital Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on a picture released by the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary on Monday (19/02/2024). (Photo: AFP/Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary) Sixty-four bloodied bodies have been found along a stretch of road in Papua New Guinea's remote highlands, police said on Monday (19/02/2024), a gruesome escalation of long-running violence between local warring tribes. As reported by AFP, the victims were believed to be tribal fighters who were ambushed by a rival group in the early hours of Sunday (18/02/2024).

The incident occurred near the town of Wabag, about 600km northwest of the capital Port Moresby. The rugged and lawless area has for years been the scene of tit-for-tat mass killings between rival Sikin, Ambulin, Kaekin, and other tribesmen. Police on Monday said that gunfights were ongoing in nearby valleys and bodies were still being recovered from bushland near the road.


"We believe there are still some bodies ... out there in the bush," Assistant Commissioner of Police, Samson Kua said.


Clans have fought each other in Papua New Guinea's highlands for centuries. However, an influx of mercenaries and automatic weapons has made clashes more deadly and escalated the cycle of violence. Kua said the gunmen had used a veritable armory, as well as pump-action shotguns and homemade firearms.


Patrick Peka, the acting police commander for the province where the killings occurred, said many of the dead were believed to be mercenaries - men who roam the countryside offering to help tribes settle scores with their rivals.


"The police and government cannot do much when leaders and educated elites supply arms, ammunitions, and engage the services of gunmen from other parts of the province," Peka said.


Papua New Guinea's government has tried suppression, mediation, gun amnesties, and a range of other strategies to control the violence, with little success. The military had deployed about 100 troops to the area, but their impact has been limited and the security services remain outnumbered and outgunned.


Opponents of Prime Minister James Marape's government on Monday called for more police to be deployed and for the force's commissioner to resign.


Papua New Guinea's population has more than doubled since 1980, placing increasing strain on land and resources and deepening tribal rivalries. (AFP)

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