29 Arrested In PNG Over Alleged Sorcery Killings, Cannibalism

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Police to lead more search operations to capture members on the run

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, July 5, 2012) – Police in Papua New Guinea have arrested dozens of people who allegedly murdered and then ate their victims.

Seven people were killed in the Bogia district of Madang province last week.

On Wednesday this week police raided four camps and arrest 29 people.

Twelve of them are the suspected murderers and all of those arrested allegedly cannibalized the victims.

The provincial police commander, Anthony Wagambie junior, says the group believed their victims were sorcerers.

The commander said: "How they pinpointed these people - they say they were led there by spirits.

[PIR editor’s note: Post-Courier reports that, among the 29 charged, the youngest is a 13 year-old boy and the oldest is a teacher in his 50s.The alleged leader of the group is reportedly on the run from police.]

More raids

"But then they've gone a step further and started to eat their body parts."

Police say they will make more raids to capture other members of the group.

They said the group's leader is a local councilor.

There is still a widespread belief in sorcery, or puripuri, in Papua New Guinea. It is not uncommon for people to attribute puripuri as the cause of unexplained deaths.

Ken Fairweather, MP for Sumkar, not far from Bogia, said many Papua New Guineans - not just in remote areas - believe puripuri is still used to curse, poison or kill people.

"There's even political leaders today and other leaders are terrified of puripuri, absolutely terrified. It's a big part of culture," he said.

Mr. Fairweather's theory is that the belief in sorcery is related to the widespread prevalence of malaria.

"You'll find any area where there is lots of malaria, lots of mosquitoes, you'll also have this propensity to have puripuri if you like or whatever you want to call it, that's associated with sickness, hallucination," he said.

"If you've had malaria you'll know exactly what I'm talking about."

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