Papua New Guinea to boost security after mass killing escalates tribal war

The country’s police minister decries the ‘worst payback killing’ in PNG’s history

In this Monday, July 8, 2019, photo, locals stand by the bodies of victims recovered in recent tribal violence. Police and soldiers have been sent to Papua New Guinea's highlands to make arrests and enforce peace after more than 20 people, mostly women and children, were slain in recent tribal violence over a feud that has lasted for years. (Pills Kolo via AP)
Powered by automated translation

Authorities in Papua New Guinea have boosted security to prevent a further escalation of tribal violence, officials said on Monday, after at least 24 people were killed in a troubled upland region earlier this month.

The country’s highland clans have fought each other for centuries, but last week’s discovery of bodies, mostly belonging to women and children, marked a deadly departure from a cycle of killing in which the vulnerable are usually off limits.

PNG’s new police minister, Bryan Kramer, said immediate intervention was needed in Hela province – a rugged region in the west of the country – to prevent the latest bout of violence becoming the new norm.

“Last week’s merciless killings has changed everything,” Mr Krammer said in a Facebook post on his return from the affected region.

Mr Kramer said the decades-old conflict between two tribes had spiralled following the murder of a tribesman in June, and lead to the massacre of women and children which he described as “the worst payback killing in our country’s history”.

A defence force platoon and a mobile police squad had been stationed at a local primary school “to provide around-the-clock security, to prevent any further escalation of violence”, he added.

Authorities would engage “drone technology and satellite surveillance” to track down perpetrators who are believed to have fled the area, Mr Kramer said.

The incident has shocked both the nation and the recently appointed Prime Minister, James Marape, whose constituency includes the district where the killings occurred.

Mr Marape has vowed to find the killers, and noted that the death penalty was “already a law”.

Alili Urr, who lost his wife, a child and nine other family members in the killings told local media he was not seeking revenge but wanted authorities to take action.

"I'm calling on the provincial government to get all of us to a neutral area and ask why have these killings gone on like this?" he told Port Moresby newspaper The National.

“We, the remaining 500 villagers, need to be relocated because we will not stay here,” he said, fearing further violence.