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Authorities in the Papua New Guinea Highlands province where at least 22 people have been killed since the weekend have called for police and military support over fears more violence will follow.
Sixteen people including pregnant women and children in Karida village were reportedly hacked to death on Monday after the killing of at least six people on Sunday in Munima in what is thought to be payback.
After the violence in prime minister James Marape’s electorate, he said in a statement it was “one of the saddest days of his life” and warned the perpetrators their “time is up” and they faced the death penalty.
The region is expected to be declared a “fighting zone” and people have been warned not to travel along the road linking Tari and Koroba towns for fear of further conflict.
Provincial administrator of Hela province William Bando has called for the redeployment of PNG police mobile squad (MS) and soldiers, currently based the Exxon-Mobile LNG project at Hides, to restore order.
“Our Tari based MS 9 were taken by Exxon-Mobil to provide security, while our people are dying,” Bando told EMTV.
“This kind of killing of women and children is unprecedented. It has never happened here in Tari and we are very concerned.”
There are currently only 40 police and about a dozen soldiers based in Hela province with a population of 400,000 people.
“We have a platoon based at based at Hides, I am calling on them to assist us here in Tari,” Bando said.
“If possible, we would like one more platoon to be sent here to Tari at the Provincial Government expense. We are willing to do that.”
The attacks are reportedly part of a decades-old feud between tribal groups in the Tagali local level government area.
Residents of the Karida and Munima villages have reportedly fled.
Hela governor Philip Undialu backed Bando’s call for reinforcements and for the national government to “hold the perpetrators accountable”.
“I condemn the perpetrators, such senseless and barbaric killing should not be taken lightly,” Undialu told the Post Courier.
“I am so disappointed after so much effort has been put into doing mediation processes,” he said
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