At least 24 people, including two pregnant women and their unborn children, were killed in a three-day spasm of tribal violence in Papua New Guinea’s lawless highlands, prompting the prime minister yesterday to promise swift justice.
Officials said the deaths occurred in Hela province, a rugged region in the west of the country — when rival tribes apparently clashed over control of local gold deposits in the mineral-rich soil. 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.
Hela provincial administrator William Bando told AFP on Wednesday that the death toll could rise.
“We are still waiting for today’s brief from our officials on the ground,” he said, calling for at least 100 police to be deployed to reinforce some 40 local officers. The incident has shocked both the country and recently appointed 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. “Many children and mothers innocently murdered in Munima and Karida villages of my electorate.”
In the Karida attack, six women and eight children as well as two pregnant women and their unborn children were hacked and shot to death in a 30-minute rampage.