World: Papua New Guinea Massacre Kills Pregnant Women and Children, Police Say - PressFrom - US
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WorldPapua New Guinea Massacre Kills Pregnant Women and Children, Police Say

20:31  10 july  2019
20:31  10 july  2019 Source:   nytimes.com

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Papua New Guinea Massacre Kills Pregnant Women and Children, Police Say© Philip Pimua/Department of Health, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Remains of people killed in recent communal violence in Papua New Guinea.

SYDNEY, Australia — At least 20 people, including pregnant women and children, have been killed in an ambush and retaliatory massacre by villagers in Papua New Guinea, according to news reports and a police spokesman in the South Pacific island nation.

The fighting began when six people were set upon and killed while returning from a ceremony on Saturday in the country’s central highlands, Teddy Augwi, the chief police inspector for Hela Province, told The Post-Courier, a newspaper in Papua New Guinea.

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Relatives of the dead then retaliated, Inspector Augwi was quoted as saying.

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There were conflicting accounts on the total number of victims, who were from rival communities.

A police spokesman, Dominic Kakas, told The New York Times that 16 women and children, including two pregnant women, were killed in the revenge attack.

Eight children and eight women died in the massacre, Philip Pimua, a community health worker who was in the village of Karida when the slaughter occurred, said in a telephone interview with The Times. Another police spokesman, Thomas Levongo, speaking to Radio New Zealand, gave a slightly lower death toll, saying 10 women and five children had been killed.

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It was also unclear when the revenge attack occurred. Inspector Augwi said it happened on Sunday morning, while Mr. Pimua said it was on Monday.

Philip Undialu, the governor of Hela Province, said the attacks had “escalated into the massacre of innocent women and kids,” according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The police commissioner, Francis Okura, called the revenge attack “an unbelievable, unthinkable and atrocious criminal act that must be dealt with swiftly and severely,” according to a statement issued to The Times. He added that a military and police team was searching for the killers and working to prevent further violence.

Inspector Augwi said the massacre represented a new turn in communal violence. “This is not a tribal fight where opposing villages face each other on field,” he told The Post-Courier. “This is a fight in guerrilla warfare, meaning they play hide and seek and ambush their enemies.”

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Violence between the communities has been documented for decades in Papua New Guinea, but it has surged in recent years in the region where the latest attacks occurred, amid tensions over politics and developing gas fields.

Papua New Guinea, which lies north of Australia and shares a border with Indonesia, is known for its environmental and cultural diversity, with hundreds of ethnic groups, living in its vast highlands.

Most of the population works in agriculture. While the nation’s economy is growing, about 37 percent of the population lives under the national poverty line, and the country receives significant amounts of aid from Australia, from which it gained independence in 1975.

As the latest violence unfolded, Mr. Pimua, the health worker, woke up early on the morning of the revenge attack to the sound of gunfire and the sight of houses burning, he said. He hid in the bush and returned to see dismembered bodies. The attack lasted about 30 minutes, he said, and it involved bush knives and guns.

He and other villagers wrapped the bodies in mosquito nets before fleeing the village, leaving their belongings behind, he said. Photos uploaded to Facebook showed human remains bundled in nets attached to wooden poles. Mr. Pimua said he returned to Karida on Wednesday with a police escort to bury the victims.

“The enemies are looking for each other, hiding behind bushes,” he said.

The killings occurred in the district represented by James Marape, the country’s newly installed prime minister. The day he learned of the slaughter was one of the saddest of his life, he wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

He said he was prepared to use the death penalty against “all who have guns and kill and hide behind the mask of community,” he wrote. “I am coming for you.”

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