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Papau New Guinea: 64 killed as tribal war intensifies

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No fewer than sixty-four bloodied remains have been discovered along a road in Papua New Guinea’s remote highlands.

On Monday, authorities reported a grisly escalation of long-standing bloodshed between local warring tribes.

The fatalities were believed to be tribal fighters who were ambushed by a rival gang early on Sunday.

The incident occurred near the town of Wabag, around 600 kilometres (370 miles) northwest of the capital, Port Moresby.

The rough and lawless terrain has long been the site of tit-for-tat mass massacres between competing Sikin, Ambulin, Kaekin, and other groups.

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Graphic police pictures from the site showed stripped and bloodied bodies on the side of the road and heaped on the back of a flatbed truck.

Some men had their limbs severed and were left naked on the road with beer bottles or cans on their chests.

On Monday, police reported gunfights were still taking place in neighbouring valleys, and bodies were being discovered in the woods along the road.

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

Clans have been fighting one another in Papua New Guinea’s highlands for decades, but an infusion of mercenaries and automatic weapons has made battles more lethal and accelerated the cycle of conflict.

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Kua stated that the gunmen employed a veritable arsenal, including SLR, AK-47, M4, AR15, and M16 rifles, as well as pump-action shotguns and other firearms.

According to the province’s acting police chief, Patrick Peka, many of the dead were mercenaries, or guys who wander the countryside offering to assist tribes settle scores with their rivals.

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

The Papua New Guinea government has attempted to contain the violence through suppression, mediation, firearms amnesties, and a variety of other tactics, with little success.

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The military had sent approximately 100 men to the region, but their influence was limited, and the security forces remained outnumbered and outgunned.

The killings frequently occur in rural places, with assailants conducting raids or ambushes in retaliation for past atrocities.

Civilians, especially pregnant women and children, have been previously targeted.

The murders are frequently brutal, with victims cut with machetes, burned, maimed, or tormented.

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Police privately lament that they lack the resources to complete the job, with officers being so underpaid that some of the weapons used by the assailants were from the police force.

On Monday, opponents of Prime Minister James Marape’s government demanded additional police deployment and the resignation of the force’s commissioner.

Papua New Guinea’s population has more than doubled since 1980, putting a strain on land and resources while strengthening ethnic tensions.

Speaking on the situation in Papua New Guinea, Anthony Albanese, the prime minister of neighbouring Australia, described the incident on Monday as “very disturbing.”.

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“We are providing considerable support, particularly for training police officers and for security in Papua New Guinea,” he told reporters.

“We remain available to provide whatever support we can.”

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