15 MORE KILLED IN FIERCE PNG SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS TRIBAL FIGHTING

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 20, 2001 - Post-Courier)---Fifteen more people were confirmed killed on Tuesday in a fiery clash in the tribal fight between Wogia and Unjamap villagers outside Mendi town.

Southern Highlands provincial police commander Jeffery Kera said the latest deaths mean a total of 23 lives lost in the fight that erupted over the weekend.

A policeman who returned from the scene of the battle said there could be more deaths as no confirmed figures could be obtained from either side while the situation was still tense and explosive.

The policemen said that sophisticated high powered rifles and arms -- like M16s, AR15s, SLRs, M60 machine guns, AK47s, M203 rifles with launchers and ammunition -- were being used in the fight.

On Monday, buildings belonging to the Mendi Provincial High School were burned down during the fight.

Destroyed were a two-floor dormitory building, two staff houses and the students’ mess hall. Police intervened and prevented the burning of other school buildings.

A senior nursing officer at Mendi hospital, Sister Anna Wale, said that there were no patients as they had fled in fear of their lives and the hospital was only dealing with very serious cases.

Sister Wale said the presence of police mobile units at the hospital, led by Highlands Divisional Commander Assistant Commissioner Tony Wagambie, had given staff a feeling of protection.

Residents of the Tente Newtown area have moved to safer sides of the town -- like Kumin, North Kagua, Waa and Longo -- with wantoks and friends.

Town residents reported seeing numerous burning of houses as well as hearing large explosions.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kera said the provincial Peace and Good Order Committee had declared tribal fighting zones in the Mendi, Ialibu and Nipa/Kutubu districts of the province effective as of yesterday.

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

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