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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post Courier, January 29) – A tribal clash in the middle of Mt Hagen city on Friday marred the launch of the New Generation Party's Western Highlands branch.

A large crowd that had gathered for the launch was dispersed by armed men who attacked each other in front of the launch centre.

Gun-toting and knife-wielding warriors – believed to be fighters involved in the ongoing tribal war in Nebilyer - had parts of Mount Hagen city under seige and used them as their battle field.

Warriors were seen in nasty confrontations with a police unit. In front of the Best Buys supermarket, a mob swung their bush knives at each other and tried to attack and disarm policemen. Police retaliated by firing several gunshots into the air in warning.

A shop lost more than 100 Tramontina bush knives to the fighters. Chemica's retail one branch manager, Louis Naime, said his guards were overpowered by desperate men who rushed into the shop to grab bush knives.

The escalation of the 30-year-old fight into the centre of the country’s third largest city has drawn the ire of several prominent people.

Moge clan leader Johannes Pamunda said tribal fights must be left in the villages and not taken into the city as it scared visitors and deterred business investment from the province. Pope John Paul oval —- the venue for the launch— became a brief battle field as dispelled enemies re-gathered and attacked each other as soon as the NGP delegation led by party leader, Bart Philemon, Sir Bob Sinchlair and Thaddeus Kambanei was escorted onto the stage.

To the dismay of Mr Philemon and other senior officials watching from the dais, a young woman was chased around the open field and slashed with bush knives.

The victim was identified by this reporter as a 15-year-old prostitute who had threatened to protest against local authorities closing down a brothel she had operated from last year at the launch of NGP.

The injured girl said before collapsing from her wounds: "Ol suspect nating…ol ting mi spai na tokim ol brata bilong mi long wanem hap ol hait. Tru tru mi no mekim wanpela samting tasol ol katim mi nating. ("They just suspected that I was spying for my brothers and told them of their hiding place. I never did anything like that but they chopped me."

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