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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 3, 1999 - Radio Australia)---The death toll from tribal fighting in Papua New Guinea's Eastern Province has risen to 35.

According to a report in PNG's National newspaper, police said the high number of casualties resulted from the use by warring tribes of weapons including hand grenades, a rocket launcher and high-powered rifles.

Police Chief Inspector Edward Kinamun, from the Eastern Highlands capital of Goroka, was quoted as saying the weapons are those used by the PNG Defense Force.

The Inspector said the weapons must have been smuggled out during the height of the conflict in Bougainville, or otherwise taken from the PNG Defence Forces.

Police said 23 people had died in recent tribal fighting between 10 clans in the Okapa district and 12 deaths had been reported in a fight between two clans in Kainantu.

At least 62 others had been seriously injured.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.


By Peter Korugl

LAE, Papua New Guinea (March 3, 1999 - The National)---Thirty five people have been killed in two tribal fights currently raging in Eastern Highlands province, police said yesterday.

At least 62 more people have been injured, some seriously in the fighting involving high powered weapons.

Police said 23 people have died in the fight involving 10 clans in Okapa district while 12 deaths have been reported in the fight involving two clans in Kainantu.

They said the high number of casualties was the direct result of the use of high powered weapons.

"We have not been able to determine the amount of destruction to the properties and homes . . . it's a lot," Eastern Highlands police commander, Chief Inspector Edward Kinamun, told The National from Goroka.

Mr. Kinamun said in the fighting at Kainantu, police were not able to intervene because of the poor condition of the road there.

He said in the fighting at Okapa, the Kapa, Inapo, Mowe, Kuripi, Ataia, Agam, Gul and Agnulenofi clans were battling Fomu one and two clans.

He said the rivals had been using highly sophisticated weapons including hand grenades, a rocket launcher and high powered rifles.

"These are weapons that are used by the PNG Defense Force. We (police) do not have them. I cannot say where they get them, but all I can say is that the weapons must have been smuggled out during the height of the conflict in Bougainville or from the PNGDF," Mr. Kinamun said.

The fighting at Okapa started some years ago, police said.

Police and provincial authorities managed to negotiate peace and a peace treaty was about to be signed early last month when one of the groups involved in the fighting abducted a young girl and a pregnant mother and raped them, re-igniting the fight.

The fighting between the Akibu and Tonakau at Kainantu has also been continuing since the 1980s, but the deaths and destruction reported in the latest flare-up were a lot worse than past skirmishes.

Mr. Kinamun said apart from the poor road conditions that were hampering efforts by the police to intervene, the disrespect the clans have for the police, the rule of law and the authorities in general were also hindering efforts to end the fighting.

"They have not touched the government institutions or the mission establishments, however they are not listening to us. They are heavily armed so they do not fear or respect us at all," Mr. Kinamun said.

He said police will have to step up efforts to bring the warring groups together and, at present, he was preparing a submission for the Provincial Peace and Good Order Committee to declare the Okapa and Kainantu districts as fighting zones.

He said the provincial government had agreed to his request to fund a peace ceremony between the two groups in Kainantu.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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