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By John Dau

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 3, 2001 – The National)---A large quantity of ammunition concealed in a carved wooden fish and bound for the Highlands region has been intercepted by police at Jacksons Airport.

The ammunition, packed in the hollow of the carving, included quantities of 5.56 mm rounds, two 30-round rifle magazines, two 20-round rifle magazines and substantial amounts of 7.62 SLR rounds.

NCD/Central Police Commander Geoffrey Vaki said police were able to intercept and impound the "goods" after receiving a tip-off.

Mr. Vaki said the ammunition was destined for a certain place in the Highlands, but he chose not to disclose the exact location for fear of jeopardizing ongoing investigations.

He said police investigations would focus on the source of the ammunition, what it was for, where it was obtained and its destination.

He said: "All these are believed to be similar to military ammo and this type of smuggling activities is done by a mindless few who know very well that such activities lead to more criminals being armed to cause more death, destruction and fear in the community."

He said detectives will pursue the case vigorously and those responsible will face the full force of the law.

He added that the ammunition has been locked away safely in the police armory, awaiting the completion of the investigations.

It is common knowledge that high-powered guns, similar to those used in the military, are being used in tribal fights in the Highlands, and could even be used by candidates or their supporters in the 2002 general elections to coerce voters.

A tribal fight in Mendi, Southern Highlands province, involving the use of high-powered guns late last month has left at least 27 people dead.

Police who were simply "outgunned" stood by helplessly and watched as warring tribesmen raided each other's villages with those guns to cause death and destruction.

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

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