NewsEscalating tribal conflict in Papua New Guinea leaves dozens dead: Country on the verge of crisis

Escalating tribal conflict in Papua New Guinea leaves dozens dead: Country on the verge of crisis

Tribal battles are ongoing in the Enga province.
Tribal battles are ongoing in the Enga province.
Images source: © Royal Police in Papua New Guinea
3:15 AM EST, February 19, 2024

Local police have reported recent massacres in the mountainous regions of Papua New Guinea. Acting Superintendent George Kakas shared that the officers who reported to the scene were "devastated".

"This is by far the largest act of aggression I've witnessed in Enga and perhaps even in the entire Highlands region of Papua New Guinea. We are all horrified. It's difficult to comprehend such violence," disclosed a government official to ABC News.

Last year, Enga was closed off for several months due to the escalating tribal fighting. Contrarily, police efforts to halt the delivery of firearms and ammunition to the region backfired, causing further violence.

According to local reports, over 60 individuals were killed last year during the tribal conflicts. Once again, this recent conflict led to dozens losing their lives. Presently, officials report a total of 64 victims.

Tribal massacre: a battle of knives and axes

Superintendent Kakas revealed that one of the tribes, supported by their allies and mercenaries, was preparing to attack a neighboring tribe when they were ambushed. "Members of the tribe under attack dispersed throughout the area. They attempted to take shelter from their attackers in the surrounding bushes, but were pursued," he explained.

"We've commenced the grim task of collecting bodies scattered across the battlefield, along the roads and by the river. We're actively searching for injured survivors to provide medical assistance and transport to the hospital," he further added.

The local police are now appealing for peace in the province. Enga's Governor, Peter Ipatas, has voiced his concerns about the potential resumption of the tribal warfare.

A total of 17 tribes are engaged in the conflicts which have been escalating since the 2022 elections. The tension exploded yet again in September last year during the funeral of an attack victim when violence broke out. The quarrelling groups resorted to fighting with knives and axes.

This situation incited further clashes in the subsequent days. The violence spread to more villages with additional tribes joining the fray. Numerous villages were raided and torched.

Upon hearing of the conflict in Enga, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese indicated his country's willingness to offer immediate aid and deploy forces to the conflict zone. However, he awaits a decision from the authorities of Papua New Guinea.

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