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More than 90 houses destroyed and nearby mine disrupted

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, March 23, 2009) – The town of Wau came to a standstill on Friday when more than 500 fully armed warriors from Watut raided Biangai villages in Bulolo district of Morobe Province.

The Hidden Valley mine also come standstill as over 1000 plus warriors tried to disrupt mining operation on Saturday.

Police mobile squads were quickly deployed to beef up security to company property and the work force.

The warriors armed with bows and arrows, knives, stones, sticks, petrol and guns walked through the town torching houses belonging to the

Biangai, looting properties and destroying food garden.

A teacher’s house at Kaisenik Primary school was also set on fire where an 11 years old disable child has allegedly burnt inside the house.

More than 90 houses, both permanent and bush material, belonging to the Biangais in Kaisenik, Kuembu, Weretobula villages and Number Six compound near the Wau town were torched.

In Kaisenik village, 20 high covenant houses including three trade stores were burnt to ashes with properties worth thousands of kina looted by the attackers. A pastor and a teacher also lost their houses.

The raid started around midday on Friday. A Kaisenik villager Martin Danny said: "We were told that the Watut were coming to raid our villages.

"We were warned by our friends in town that more than 800 Watut warriors were on their way to Kaisenik to fight us," he said.

He said the villagers mobilised and went to stop them, but they were outnumbered. "There were hundreds of them where we couldn’t hold them off because they were also using guns and firing at us so we had to run and hide with the women and children," he said.

Mr. Danny said they just watched as the intruders broke into their houses, looting properties and then setting them on fire, using gasoline. "While the men broke into houses, the women were enjoying themselves shopping on whatever items or properties they could lay their hands and walked away," he said.

A panick-stricken pregnant woman gave birth during the raid and was rushed into the bushes with the baby’s umbilical cord uncut.

The houses destroyed were at Kaisenik (25), Kuembu (21), Weretobula (18), Kumbak Farm (4) and Number 6 Compound 35. The Kaisenik villagers claimed that they had called the police for help but they failed to deploy their men quickly to stop the raid. "We called the police but they failed to respond quickly. If they had come there would not be any destruction," the villagers said.

They said the police arrived after the destruction. "They saw people carrying the stolen properties but didn’t do anything to stop them,’’ villager Danny said.

The situation is quiet but tense with heavy police presence. Bulolo MP Sam Basil, Morobe Provincial Administrator Patalias Gamato and provincial police Commander Peter Guinness flew into Wau yesterday morning to negotiate peace among the two groups.

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier:

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