NINE DEAD IN PNG HIGHLANDS ATTACK

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, May 24) – Nine people are dead at Kimil plantation in the Western Highlands after a bloody attack.

The deaths came in a retaliatory attack following a group of men attacking two local plantation managers on Sunday evening.

A senior expatriate plantation manager told the Post-Courier yesterday that among the dead were three women who drowned while trying to cross the Wahgi River river at midnight in fear of their lives.

The two plantation managers are in a critical condition at the Kudjip Nazarene Hospital.

They were chopped in the head and thighs. One is reportedly a relative of a Western Highlands Member of Parliament.

Provincial police commander Winnie Henao confirmed the attack, saying his men were checking out the situation in the area.

A local leader and eyewitness Raima Das, who operates a trade store at Kimil, said the incident followed a fight last week.

Kimil Plantation landowners had made peace on Sunday by paying K700 as compensation to their opponents for the fight two weeks ago.

However, Mr Das said after the landowners left the peace ceremony, a group of men living at Tepend block outside the plantation marched on the two local managers’ office and attacked them. When the landowners heard of the attack on the two they went on a dawn raid at Tepend block.

The inhabitants had no way of escaping but to cross the flooded river, he said. In the process, two men and three women from Wabag drowned, while two other men were reportedly chopped to death.

While the death toll sits on nine, many others are nursing cuts from knife and axe attacks.

Mr Das said he lost goods worth more than K4,000 when his trade store was ransacked. His female shopkeeper was injured in the attack.

Banz police have confirmed the report, adding the situation was tense. A Mt Hagen mobile police squad with Banz police are in the area to take control of the situation.

The expatriate manager said the 589-hectare Kimil Plantation stands to lose a lot if the situation is not brought under control.

He said Kimil, one of a handful of plantations left operating, produces about 3,000 tonnes of green coffee beans a year and earns K26 million (US$8.3 million) in export revenue.

"This figure will drop this year if the problem continues because the plantation came to a standstill after the incident as most of these people are plantation workers and we would need them to harvest our coffee this season," he said.

May 25, 2005

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

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