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Tribal fighting in Papua New Guinea's highlands leaves 64 dead, Australian PM offers support

Just Earth News | @justearthnews | 18 Feb 2024, 10:40 pm Print

Tribal fighting in Papua New Guinea's highlands leaves 64 dead, Australian PM offers support Papua New Guinea

Tribal fighting in Papua New Guinea leaves 64 dead. Photo Courtesy: Unsplash

An ambush in Papua New Guinea's remote Highlands region, which is witnessing a major escalation of tribal fighting, has left at least 64 people dead, media reports said on Monday.

The victims were shot dead during a tribal dispute in the Enga province over the weekend, a national police spokesman told BBC.

This development is believed to worst experienced by the country in years.

A tribe, their allies and mercenaries were on their way to attack a neighbouring 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.

Police said more bodies are expected to be recovered.

Last year, Enga Province was put under lockdown amid rising tribal fighting.

According to reports, the tribal fighting in the region mostly takes place over the distribution of land and wealth.

Enga Governor Peter Ipatas comments

Enga Governor Peter Ipatas told ABC that there was a warning that tribal fighting was about to erupt.

"[This is] a very, very sad occasion for us in the province and it's a bad thing for the country,"  he said.

"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," he said.

With 17 tribes involved in the recent escalation of fighting in the region, Ipatas said it was upto the security forces to maintain peace in the region.

"The police and security forces must take ownership and be on the ground, assess the situation and take appropriate action," he said.

Small weapons

Assistant Commissioner of Police Samson Kua said police are concerned over the proliferation of small weapons in the area.

"This [massacre] is only made possible through the use of many, many small arms and it is a concern," he told the ABC.

Australian PM reacts to development in PNG

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described the massacre in PNG as ' very disturbing'.

"That is very disturbing," he told  ABC Radio in Perth.

The PM said his nation is ready to provide support to PNG to deal with the situation.

"We are providing considerable support, particularly for training police officers and for security in Papua New Guinea," he said.

"We are great friends with PNG, which is an important relationship for us, and I have a good personal relationship with Prime Minister Marape. He addressed our Parliament, the first Pacific leader to do so just a couple of weeks ago," he said.

"But we remain available to provide whatever support we can, in a practical way, of course, to help our friends in PNG," he said