Violence Breaks Out in Papua New Guinea

Violence Breaks Out in Papua New Guinea

( – Over two dozen fighters and citizens were killed during a clash between warring tribes in Papua New Guinea on February 18.

The violence occurred in the island nation’s Enga province, a remote highlands region. One tribe was moving with a band of mercenaries and supporters to attack their neighbor but were ambushed along the way. A heavy gun battle ensued as unsuspecting bystanders scrambled to find cover. Police reinforcements were called to restore order. Initial reports cited over 50 deaths, although those figures have since been changed. More recent reports indicate security forces have altered the number to at least 26. It’s still unconfirmed exactly how many combatants and bystanders in total have been killed.

Police Commissioner David Manning said that his department is still working to assess the progress authorities have made in restoring order. Per the Australian Broadcasting Corp., he said he wants officials to “regain control or have a significant presence” before working to prevent further violence.

Violence in the Enga region has become so bad that police commander Richard Koki has described his officers as “spectators” in 2023, according to reports. He said they have been stretched to their maximum and have no choice but to hope that the violence eventually calms.

Violence began between the two tribes during a funeral. Mourners blamed the victim’s in-laws, who lived in a different village. Over five people were killed at the funeral after they were ambushed.

Several tribes have since formed alliances and clashed with others. The government largely isolated the region to prevent the violence from spreading, leaving many innocent villagers with no means of escape. Poverty, which has been rampant in the region for years, is expected to worsen, leading to a full humanitarian crisis.

The United Nations is calling for more involvement from the nation’s government. They have urged officials to better communicate with leaders at the local and provincial levels. They also acknowledged escalating violence over the past two years stemming from tribal and land conflicts. The letter is requesting that the government force combatants to surrender their weapons.

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