ETHNIC VIOLENCE ESCALATES IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Post-Courier/PINA, Feb. 6) - Ethnic fighting re-ignited yesterday in Lae, Papua New Guinea's second largest city, with five more people reported killed and more homes and stores torched.

Heavily armed Western Highlanders raided the Menyamya (Morobe Highlanders) blocks in West Taraka, a suburb of Lae.

According to police, the raiders, some armed with high-powered guns, surprised the Menyamya at 4 a.m.

Running battles ensued as the Western Highlanders chased the Menyamyas into the bushes behind the suburb.

Houses and trade stores, mostly abandoned since Sunday, when the trouble first flared, were set on fire.

Fellow tribesmen dragged the body of a man out of the bushes. Police believe there are four other bodies still to be recovered in the bushes.

The five reported deaths bring to six those killed in the fighting that erupted on Sunday after two drunken Western Highlanders allegedly assaulted a Menyamya at a market.

When Papua New Guinea Post-Courier journalists visited West Taraka with a police escort, several houses were still burning and gunshots were still heard.

A strong police force that moved into the area soon after daylight struggled until mid-morning to stop the fighting within the suburb blocks. But they could do little about the fighting.

Metropolitan Superintendent Simon Kauba spent the entire day at West Taraka, directing his officers to try to control the situation.

He organized a mediation meeting between the conflicting parties but he called it off after the Menyamya people failed to show up.

He said the instigators of the fight must be found and made to face the law. "The instigators should be forced to pay for all the damage that has been done," he said.

A man from East Sepik was killed on Monday after being hit by pellets. A large number of people have been injured.

On Monday, 34 homes were destroyed or damaged and five buses were set alight during the confrontation.

Many other buses and other privately owned cars were also damaged.

The city’s public transport system has been crippled as a result of the fight. The majority of buses in Lae are owned by Western Highlanders.

February 7, 2003

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