SITUATION REMAINS TENSE IN WESTERN HIGHLANDS

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Police monitoring area after violent New Year’s rampage

By Yvonne Haip PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan 5, 2 010) - Police are monitoring the tense situation between two Moge tribes in Western Highlands following a drunkard brawl on New Year’s Eve that led to a rampage on Saturday afternoon.

The drunkards from the Moge Nambka-Milemp and Moge Pangumb tribes quarreled and fought last Thursday in a lodge at Newtown just outside Mt Hagen city.

They continued the next day and Saturday morning, sparking another fight between the tribes armed with stones and bush knives on the main Highlands Highway.

Police intervened twice but were jeered and stoned.

At about 4 p.m., the fight turned nasty with the Moge Nambka launching a surprise attack on Pangumb’s territory, torching down houses and destroying food crops.

Several gunshots, allegedly from high-powered weapons, were also fired in the rampage which resulted in the death of an Engan man who was not involved in the fight.

The victim was chewing betel nut at a nearby market some 100m away from the scene when he was hit in the head by a stray bullet.

The Nambka tribe launched another attack early on Sunday morning where 44 houses near the Kuta ridge were looted, torched and razed.

Police confirmed that four people, including a woman are in the hospital with gunshot wounds.

Metropolitan Supt Peter Roari said the rampages had left more than 200 people homeless.

They are currently seeking refuge with friends and relatives.

"We are monitoring the situation and will do anything within our power to contain it," Supt Roari said and blamed the lack of a blanket cover restriction of liquor trading during the festive season for the problem.

Community leaders and peace negotiators have stepped in to mediate between the warring tribes to come to an understanding.

Peace mediators said an agreement should be reached before the end of the week with the help of the police.

The fighting is between two tribes that are part of the same clan and share traditional land boundaries.

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