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Passenger vehicle targeted in paramilitary skirmish

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, April 2, 2008) - One man was killed and two other seriously injured when a passenger vehicle was ambushed by Damien Koike’s Me´ekamui faction on the highway in South Bougainville yesterday.

But more may have been killed according to a relative of one of the injured duo taken to the Arawa Health Centre.

"Wanpela lapun man mi lukim idai wantaim sampela mama na pikinini tasol mipela lusim ol long kar we oli kukim pinis (I saw an old man die and also some women and children but their bodies were left at the place where the vehicle was burnt)," the relative told a health center officer.

Arawa police confirmed the shooting and the death and two seriously injured but said they were still waiting for their man who had gone to the scene of the ambush to return with detailed report.

The vehicle, carrying 30 passengers, including women and children, was ambushed near Pania village, Konou Constituency in South Bougainville about 10 a.m.

A staff from the Arawa Health Centre confirmed the two seriously wounded passengers -- a man and woman -- were brought to the center late yesterday and would be transferred to Buka Hospital as soon as a vehicle was available.

The health center staff, who did not want to be identified for fear of his safety, said he had spoken to the relative who had brought the wounded to Arawa. He told me more could have been killed and some had fled into the bushes in fear of their lives, the officer said.

The attack on the civilians is believed to be in retaliation to a recent raid conducted by Wisai Liberation Movement (WILMO) on a camp belonging to Koike’s faction two weeks ago in which four of his men were killed.

Attempts last night by the Post-Courier to get comments from the ABG police minister Ezekiel Massat were unsuccessful and Buka police said they still were waiting for a report from Arawa.

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