64 dead in Papua New Guinea tribal violence

Sixty-four bloodied bodies have been found along a stretch of road in Papua New Guinea’s remote highlands, police said Monday, a gruesome escalation of long-running violence between local warring tribes.

The victims were believed to be tribal fighters who were ambushed by a rival group in the early hours of Sunday.

The rugged and lawless area has for years been the scene of tit-for-tat mass killings between rival Sikin, Ambulin, Kaekin and other tribesmen.

Graphic police images from the scene showed stripped and bloodied bodies lying by the side of the road and piled up on the back of a flatbed truck.

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

Police on Monday said gunfights were ongoing in nearby valleys and bodies were still being recovered from bushland near the road.

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

Clans have fought each other in Papua New Guinea’s highlands for centuries, but an influx of mercenaries and automatic weapons has made clashes more deadly and escalated the cycle of violence.

Kua said the gunmen had used a veritable armoury, including SLR, AK-47, M4, AR15 and M16 rifles, as well as pump-action shotguns and home-made firearms.

The province’s acting police commander Patrick Peka said many of the dead were believed to be mercenaries — men who roam the countryside offering to help tribes settle scores with their rivals.

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

Papua New Guinea’s government has tried suppression, mediation, gun amnesties and a range of other strategies to control the violence, with little success.

The military had deployed about 100 troops to the area, but their impact has been limited and the security services remain outnumbered and outgunned.

The killings often take place in remote communities, with attackers launching raids or ambushes in revenge for previous attacks.


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