Papua New Guinea leader vows tough response after fighting kills dozens

Papua New Guinea leader vows tough response after fighting kills dozens
Papua New Guinea leader vows tough response after fighting kills dozens

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Papua New Guinea will give arrest powers to its military amid an eruption of tribal violence in remote highlands that saw at least 26 men killed in an ambush, Prime Minister James Marape said. — AFP pic/Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary

SYDNEY, Feb 19 — Papua New Guinea will give arrest powers to its military amid an eruption of tribal violence in remote highlands that saw at least 26 men killed in an ambush, Prime Minister James Marape said late today.

Papua New Guinea’s police commissioner David Manning is travelling to the scene of the fighting in Enga province, after shocking images of bodies stacked onto a truck circulated on social media in the Pacific Island nation, the toll from an inter-tribal ambush on Sunday in remote Wapenamanda.

In a statement, Manning said it was a “disgraceful act of cruelty”, and the number of dead and injured was still being assessed. An earlier police estimate of 26 was likely to be revised up.

Broadcaster NBC said most of the dead were from the Sikin and Kaikin tribes, which have been involved in long-running fighting with the Ambulin tribe. Last year 60 people were killed in tribal fighting in Enga.

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Marape urged highland tribes to find other ways to deal with community disputes instead of killing.

“There is no prize to be engaged in tribal fights... lay down your arms,” he said. “Youths holding guns” would be arrested and face life in prison, he added.

“To lose one life, let alone many lives does not evade our consciousness and our concern. As prime minister, I am deeply moved by this and very, very concerned. I am very, very angry,” he told reporters at a video press conference.

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Police and defence forces were on the ground, he said, but had been hesitant to act amid concerned for their safety as the tribes used illegal high-powered weapons.

The government would make legal changes to give to the military the powers of arrest possessed by the police, he said.

“Some of these places require tough measures, especially when police are out there, they need to be protected,” he said.

A special police unit of up to 200 officers was being formed to deal with “domestic terrorists”, and would be trained in Australia, he added.

“These tribesmen have been killed all over the countryside, all over the bush,” George Kakas, a senior officer in the country’s police force, earlier told the ABC.

The Pacific nation is home to hundreds of tribes, speaking 800 languages, and many still live in inhospitable and remote terrain.

Japan on Monday pledged to fund the purchase of dozens of police vehicles for PNG.

“That is very disturbing the news that has come out of Papua New Guinea,” Australia Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Monday. “We’re providing considerable support, particularly for training police officers and for security in Papua New Guinea.”

Australia in December pledged to provide A$200 million for police training. — Reuters

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