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Papua New Guinea: Many people are shot dead in the Highlands region

Papua New Guinea: Many people are shot dead in the Highlands region

Papua New Guinea: Many people are shot dead in the Highlands region

Papua New Guinea: Many people are shot dead in the Highlands region

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  • An influx of illegal firearms is believed to have contributed to making these killings the worst in years.
  • Initially, authorities announced at least 64 deaths but later revised the toll to 26.
  • The government declared a state of emergency last month due to major rioting and looting.
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Authorities report that dozens of people have died in a tribal dispute in Papua New Guinea’s remote Highlands region. A national police spokesman revealed that perpetrators shot dead the victims during an ambush in the Enga province over the weekend. Although the Highlands area has long struggled with violence, these killings are believed to be the worst in years. An influx of illegal firearms has made clashes more deadly and fueled a cycle of violence.

Initially, authorities announced that at least 64 people had died. However, later reports indicated that they had miscounted and revised the toll down to 26. Police began collecting bodies at the scene near the town of Wabag – roughly 600km (373 miles) northwest of the capital Port Moresby.

“This is by far the largest [killing] I’ve seen in Enga, maybe in all of Highlands as well,” Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary Acting Supt George Kakas told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

“We’re all devastated, we’re all mentally stressed out. It’s really hard to comprehend.”

Media outlets report that police received graphic videos and photos purporting to be from the scene, showing bodies loaded onto a truck. Escalating tribal conflict – often over the distribution of land and wealth – led to a three-month lockdown in Enga last July, during which police imposed a curfew and travel restrictions.

Governor Peter Ipatas:

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In August last year, the violence made international headlines after graphic footage involving three dead men circulated online. Governor Peter Ipatas told the news that there had been signs that fighting was about to erupt again ahead of the ambush. With up to 17 tribes involved in the most recent escalation, it was ultimately up to the security forces to keep the peace, 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.”

Last month, the government declared a state of emergency in response to major rioting and looting that left at least 15 people dead, indicating that security more broadly remains a key concern for PNG. Australia, one of the country’s closest allies, described the news of the killings as “very disturbing.”

“We’re providing considerable support, particularly for training police officers and for security in Papua New Guinea,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in a radio interview on Monday.

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