FOUR GUNNED DOWN IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA TRIBAL WAR

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Police say cell phones key tools in surprise attacks

By Johnny Poiya PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, July 12, 2011) – In Papua New Guinea (PNG), four young men were gunned down by tribal enemies in the Laiagam district of Enga Province last Saturday night.

[PIR editor’s note: With an estimated 300,000 people, Enga is the highest and most rugged of all Papua New Guinea provinces. It includes Porgera, where Canadian miner Barrick Gold operates a giant gold and copper mine. Workers at the mine early this year were implicated in widespread rape and human rights allegations in villages near the mine. The Barrick mine is also associated with a number of alleged killings of displaced villagers scavenging for gold by hired security workers, some of them off-duty PNG provincial police.]

According to Enga Provincial Police Commander (PPC) Martin Lakari’s count, the number of deaths in the fight now stands at 13 while locals claim the figure is much higher.

The four men, believed to be between 18 to 23-years-old, were heading towards their Mamale village with several others between 9-10pm after a few drinks at a lodge inside Laiagam station when they were ambushed. Many others were wounded.

Three weeks ago, two men were also ambushed and murdered on the road to Kandep. Though locals claim it was related to the warfare, PPC Lakari said otherwise and blamed the Post-Courier for misreporting.

Police believe the introduction of mobile phones has led to warriors using phones to alert clansmen to mount surprise attacks on enemies.

Police strongly believe that informers were using mobile phones to contact warriors in both killings.

Even if the murders were related to the tribal warfare which flared up mid April this year over a state owned land dispute, Mr. Lakari said authorities issued a preventative order restraining the two sides from fighting, ironically adding that the killings were not related to the ongoing hostility.

In late May, a preventative court order was issued to the warring factions with orders that those who broke the law after the preventative order would be arrested.

Mr. Lakari said his officers were pursuing that order and took the killings as isolated murders with investigations underway.

Mr. Lakari also appealed to Police Headquarters to withdraw the province’s two police Mobile Squad units serving in Porgera and Gobe into Laiagam to contain the fighting.

"Due to the absence of two Mobile Squads, fighting is igniting again. MS 11 and MS 12 should be withdrawn back into Laiagam," he said.

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