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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post Courier, June 1) – Cargo cult activities in the Ambenob area of Madang Province in Papua New Guinea have turned violent. Followers of a cult turned on members of Christian churches, burning down a home belonging to a ward councilor and two Madang police – who this week launched an operation code named "Black Rose" to eliminate the cult movement as well as halt the violence.

[PIR editor’s note: Madang Province is in the north central part of the Papua New Guinea mainland peninsula.]

The police said the cultists had blamed other churches of "blocking" their free cargo from arriving in the area.

Police said the cultists, led by a man named Steven Garasai Tari, alias "Black Jesus", had declared a holy war on mainline church members in the area. They reportedly attacked Megenam village, burning down the councilor’s house and two church buildings belonging to the Lutheran and Foursquare churches.

The people from Megenam have taken refuge at the nearby Mawan police station. Police said the situation was tense and members of the mainline Christian churches in Amele, Transgogol and Ambenob areas were arming themselves to fight the cultists.

The cult, based at Gal village, is reported to have resulted in the deaths of two people who police said were used as human sacrifices and the abduction of a large number of young girls to be used as "flower girls", with whom the cult leaders involved in sexual and other immoral activities.

Madang police say there is a complete lack of authority and general disorder due to the illiterate mentality of the followers who believe Tari to be God who has returned to earth.

The cult group has openly denounced the State of Papua New Guinea and the Government.

Police said further that a number of jail escapees had taken refuge at Gal village and were providing security for the cult leader. There are about 2,000 people living at the camp.

Two police units, numbering about 20 policemen, were on Tuesday deployed to the area by helicopter and have rounded up the cult leaders and 50 "flower girls" who were last night escorted back to Madang.

Operation "Black Rose" was launched to investigate those directly involved in and facilitating, harboring, aiding, abetting and benefiting from the cult movement.

Cult leader Tari and his "queen" Dorothy Gasan are wanted by the courts after absconding bail following their arrests last year.

Mamose police chief Giossi Labi said yesterday he was seriously concerned about the re-emergence of the cult movement and directed his men to end it.

June 1, 2006

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