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Pacific News Minute: As Many As 25 Killed In Tribal Violence In Papua New Guinea

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A cycle of ambush and revenge is being blamed for the deaths of as many as 25 people in the central highlands of Papua New Guinea. The massacres occurred in the district represented in parliament by Papua New Guinea’s new prime minister, James Marape, who vowed to hunt down the killers.

According to several reports, a long running tribal dispute erupted over the weekend, when at least six people were murdered on their way home from a ceremony in Hela Province. Teddy Augwi, the chief police inspector for the province, told PNG’s Post Courier that relatives of those killed then retaliated.

At least 15 women and children were killed in a pre-dawn raid on Karida village; two of the women were pregnant, the children were as young as one year old.

Philip Pimua, the officer in charge of the local health center, was in the village when the attack occurred. He said he ran and hid in the bush after hearing gunfire; when he returned, found bodies chopped into pieces. Asked if this was the worst attack his village has ever seen, Pimua told The Guardian, “It’s the worst, the very worst in the history of this country.”

PNG’s new prime minister, James Marape, said it was one of the saddest days of his life and warned the killers, “I am coming for you.”

Marape, who represents the district in parliament, said he had been requesting more police for Hela for years, and asked how a force of 60 officers could police a province of 400,000.

Ahmad Hallak, who heads the mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross in PNG, told Australia’s ABC that an influx of high-powered weapons is also to blame. Casualties were limited when tribes fought with bows and arrows and spears, he said, “With the presence of modern weapons . . . we are seeing humanitarian consequences very similar to Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan.”

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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