At least 26 men massacred in Papua New Guinea tribal violence, police tell Australian media

PTI | Melbourne | Updated: 19-02-2024 11:26 IST | Created: 19-02-2024 11:23 IST
At least 26 men massacred in Papua New Guinea tribal violence, police tell Australian media
Representative Image Image Credit: ANI
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At least 26 men were massacred in tribal violence in Papua New Guinea, Australian media reported Monday.

A tribe, their allies and mercenaries were on their way to attack a neighboring tribe when they were ambushed Sunday in Enga province in the South Pacific nation's remote highlands, Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary Acting Superintendent George Kakas told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Kakas initially said 53 had died. But security forces later revised the death toll down to 26, ABC reported. It was not immediately clear whether any of the ambushers might be among the dead.

Bodies were collected from the battlefield, roads and the riverside, then loaded onto police trucks and taken to the hospital. Kakas told ABC authorities were still counting “those who were shot, injured and ran off into the bushes.” Police in the capital of Port Moresby did not immediately respond to the AP's request for information on the massacre.

Papua New Guinea is a diverse, developing nation of 10 million mostly subsistence farmers with 800 languages in a strategically important part of the South Pacific.

Internal security has become an increasing challenge for its government as China, the United States and Australia seek closer security ties.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his government was ready to assist Papua New Guinea, which is Australia's nearest neighbor and the largest single recipient of Australian foreign aid.

“That is very disturbing the news that has come out of Papua New Guinea,” Albanese said before the death toll was revised down.

“We remain available to provide whatever support we can in a practical way, of course, to help our friends in PNG,” Albanese added.

Albanese said Australia was already providing “considerable support” for Papua New Guinea and was helping train the country's police officers.

Tribal violence in the Enga region has intensified since elections in 2022 that maintained Prime Minister James Marape's administration. Elections and accompanying allegations of cheating and process anomalies have always triggered violence throughout the country. Enga Gov. Peter Ipatas said there were warnings that tribal fighting was about to erupt.

“From a provincial perspective, we knew this fight was going to be on and we (alerted) the security forces last week to make sure they took appropriate action to ensure this didn't occur,” Ipatas told ABC.

Ipatas described the violence as a ''very, very sad occasion for us in the province and it's a bad thing for the country.” Scores of people have died in tribal fighting in the Enga region in the past year.

Port Moresby's Post-Courier newspaper has reported that high-powered firearms used in the recent fighting made it risky for police to enter the battlefields.

Police said they were assisted by the military in protecting the general public and government property.

Papua New Guinea government lawyer Oliver Nobetau expected more lives would be lost in retaliation for the massacre.

“There's a big concern that this will continue on. Revenge killings tend to be a normal thing that happens,” said Nobetau, who is on temporary assignment to the Sydney-based international policy think tank Lowy Institute. “Tribal violence is something that happens commonly, but never to this scale,” Nobetau added. His comments related to the higher death toll, but he later said they still applied to the revised toll of 26.

Police had limited resources to deal with such violence on a “massive scale,” Nobetau said.

“Tribal violence is something that is prevalent and the government with its limited resources will try to deploy the police wherever they can to try to curb the security issues,” he said.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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