In Papua New Guinea, tribal violence leaves at least 64 dead

The bodies of 64 people killed in tribal violence were found in Papua New Guinea, the police of this Pacific country, plagued by ancestral conflicts, announced on Sunday evening February 18

In Papua New Guinea, tribal violence leaves at least 64 dead

The bodies of 64 people killed in tribal violence were found in Papua New Guinea, the police of this Pacific country, plagued by ancestral conflicts, announced on Sunday evening February 18.

The events took place near the town of Wabag (North), in the highlands some 600 kilometers northwest of the capital Port Moresby, reported the country's police chief, David Manning.

The victims are likely tribal fighters who fell into an ambush by a rival group before dawn on Sunday, according to law enforcement, and the toll could rise. “We believe there are still bodies in the bush,” said Deputy Police Commissioner Samson Kua.

The police authorities have received videos and photos which allegedly come from the places where this violence took place. They show images of bloodied bodies with serious injuries, lying side by side on the side of the road or stacked in the back of a truck. Police said they had received reports of heavy gunfire.

Extremely violent abuses

Tribal clashes, often sparked by territorial disputes and accusations of theft, have occurred for centuries in this part of the island. The influx of automatic weapons has made the clashes more deadly and intensified the violence. Kua said the shooters used a veritable arsenal, including SLR, AK-47, M4, AR15 and M16 rifles, as well as shotguns and homemade firearms. It appears that fighting is continuing in a rural area located near where the violence occurred.

The province's acting police commander, Patrick Peka, said many of the dead appeared to be mercenaries, men who travel the countryside offering to help tribes settle scores with their rivals. “There is little the police and government can do when chiefs and educated elites provide arms, ammunition and hire the services of armed men from other parts of the province,” Peka said .

The island's government has tried repression, mediation, amnesty and a range of other strategies to control the violence, with little success. The army has deployed around a hundred soldiers in the region, but this has had a limited impact and the security services remain insufficient in terms of numbers and weapons.

Australia is worried

The violence often takes place in isolated communities, with clans launching raids or ambushes in revenge for previous attacks. The abuses committed are often extremely violent, with victims being cut with machetes, burned, mutilated or tortured. Civilians, including pregnant women and children, have been targeted in the past.

The police officers, very poorly paid, claim to not have the necessary means to accomplish their mission. Some of their weapons, which end up in the hands of tribal members, come from law enforcement.

Opponents of Prime Minister James Marape's government on Monday called for the deployment of more police officers and the resignation of the police commissioner. Papua New Guinea's population has more than doubled since 1980, putting increasing pressure on land and resources and exacerbating tribal rivalries.

The Prime Minister of neighboring Australia, Anthony Albanese, on Monday called the incident “very worrying”. “We are providing considerable support, particularly for police training and security in Papua New Guinea,” he told public broadcaster ABC, adding that Australia remains “available to provide whatever support we can ".