EIGHT DEAD, 1 BEHEADED, IN BLOODY PNG FIGHT

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Gang attacks villagers at Highlands school event

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, September 30, 2009) – Eight people were killed and several others, including women and children, injured in a bloody confrontation between an armed gang and villagers during a school fete in Eastern Highlands province last weekend.

A gang member was beheaded and his head was hung on a power post at the village in Kainantu district last Friday.

The gruesome killing and display of the gang member’s head in public was in retaliation for the killing of four people on a school ground during the school fete.

Police said as villagers and school children gathered last Friday at the Tirokave Primary School for the fete, the armed gang raided the school and attacked them.

Guests invited for the fete, parents and school children ran for cover as the gang struck.

Four villagers were killed in the attack, while a number of people, including mothers and children, were injured.

Police said the gang was led by Kainantu’s most wanted criminal, Patrick Sira, who is wanted by police for a spate of robberies, rapes, murders and escaping from lawful custody.

The villagers mobilised and retaliated instantly, killing three members of the gang, including the person who was beheaded.

He was believed to be Sira’s lieutenant.Eastern Highlands provincial police commander Chief Insp Augustine Wampe said yesterday that the gang was armed with high-powered rifles and struck at the height of the school fete.

He said the gang shot four members of the Tafesa community, including a village leader.

In retaliation, the villagers chased and killed three of them.

"The villagers beheaded a gang member and hung his head on a power pole. Reports say Sira was wounded, but we can’t confirm that," Chief Insp Wampe said.

He said the injured Sira was reportedly carried to Katibolo village and was then taken to Inora village near Aiyura.

Police and some villagers searched the village last Saturday and found one of Sira’s accomplices.

He was shot dead, Chief Insp Wampe said.

He said that in all, eight people were killed and the situation was tense.

He said police and villagers were continuing the search for Sira and his cohorts.

Two women who were alleged to have helped Sira at Inora village were attacked by pursuing villagers, who were angry that they harboured the gang leader.

Chief Insp Wampe appealed to the people of Kainantu and Obura-Wonenara district to help police comb the area and bring Sira and his gang members to justice.

Sira has been wanted by police for a string of criminal activities including escaping from jail and police cells and was featured in EM TV’s Crime Stoppers programme.

Members of the Kerowagi police mobile squad have been deployed in the area to help hunt down the gang.

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