HUNDREDS FLEE AS NEW BRITAIN VILLAGERS SKIRMISH

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The National

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Feb. 13, 20080) - Villagers from Bakove and Talasea clashed with settlers in Kimbe, but businesses and residents also became targets of the melee.

[PIR editor’s note: Bakove, Talasea and Kimbe are towns located in Papua New Guinea’s West New Britain province. ]

Three locals received arrow wounds and a settler was wounded from pellets, while a policeman was hit by a stone as he tried to fight back locals who tried to take a gun from him.

More than 700 settlers from Section 10 at the edge of town - the target of the Talasea villagers - decamped and fled elsewhere for safety, while properties worth thousands of kina were damaged. Two houses, including a guest house, were completely ransacked as the owners fled for their lives, but there was no report of any casualties.

The Kimbe Primary School that enrolls more than 600 students and other schools in the vicinity of Section 10 closed down and many parents wanting to pay their children’s school fees were turned away by security staff. Students attending Kimbe Secondary and other schools were advised by teachers to leave early for their own

safety.

The trouble started after a councilor and a student from the Talasea area were allegedly attacked and robbed by some youths from Section 10 settlement last Thursday night as they were returning from a shop.

Last Friday, the locals turned up at the Kimbe police station and demanding their help for the surrender of the youths involved to police but only five youths surrendered, while the others fled or were reluctant to surrender to police as they may have clashed with the law before.

Deputy Governor Tonny Puana and Kimbe town mayor Leo Kalasim held an urgent meeting with leaders from the Talasea area at the Talasea local level government building where a petition demanding the eviction of the trouble makers was presented to the two leaders. But violence erupted there, and spread to other parts of the town. Residents could be seeing taking cover as they tried to avoid the missiles and other flying objects thrown everywhere.

Kimbe police called in more manpower from Talasea and Buluman in the Hoskins area to help contain the clash.

The National visited the affected people at Section 10 and learnt that the trouble was caused by a minority and the Talasea people were taking out their wrath on the whole community, most of whom were innocent of any wrong doing or connected to the crime. The settlers have called on the provincial government to intervene and a police mobile unit from ToMoringa barrack is on standby to move into the province.

Police Commissioner Gari Baki, who is from the province, said he had been verbally briefed on the situation and was still waiting for a report from NGI divisional commander.

The situation in Kimbe, however, remains tense.

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