BULLETS, ARROWS FLY IN MOROBE, PNG TRIBAL SKIRMISH

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By Jason Som Kaut

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 8) - Ten houses were burnt down and a youth was shot with an arrow last Friday in a fight between youths from two villages in the Salamaua district of Morobe province.

Villagers from both sides fled in fear of a tribal war breaking out as youths, armed with factory and homemade guns, threatened the villagers and government workers.

Three Lae-based police officers were deployed last Saturday to assess the situation after the Salus village councilor reported the incident to police and Huon district administrator Tony Ase.

The fight was between youths of Salus and Lababia villages in the Salamaua district.

The villages have an estimated total population of 1,000 people.

Mr. Ase said the youths from Salus were armed and in possession of high powered weapons.

"We need to address this quickly to ensure it does not get worse," he said.

The fight was believed to be alcohol and drug related and involved 10 youths, five each from the two villages that are separated by the Bitoi River.

The fight started between 10 a.m and 11 a.m. last Friday when five Salus youths chased mothers from Lababia who had gone to the garden accompanied by five children between the ages of eight and 12.

The children managed to hold-back the attacking youths until help came from five Lababia youths, who were making sago nearby on the other side of the Bitoi River.

Youths from Maima in the nearby Morobe district had helped the Salus and provided ammunition.

[PIR editor’s note: Sago is a palm tree; starch is extracted from this tree for food consumption.]

The Salamaua and Morobe districts were known for World War II relics being the scene of heavy fighting during the war.

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