Elderly Bougainville Women Killed For Alleged Sorcery

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Police threatened while negotiating release of women

By Winterford Toreas and Romulus Masiu

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, April 8, 2013) – Sorcery-related killing has again shown its ugly face, this time in Bougainville where two elderly women were be-headed on suspicion of practicing sorcery.

The incident occurred at Lopele Village, in the Bana District of South Bougainville on Thursday around 6pm.

Police confirmed the incident on Friday, describing the killing as "barbaric and senseless."

The killing has shocked the people in the district and the region as a whole.

Police who were present at the scene watched helplessly and could not do anything as they were out-numbered by the angry Lopele villagers who were armed with five high-powered firearms, knives and axes.

According to Central Bougainville police chief, Inspector Herman Birengka, his men were threatened when they went to the area to negotiate the release of the two elderly women who were from Tandorima Village.

"We were helpless. We could not do anything," Insp. Birengka said. He also confirmed that the mob burnt down two houses, including a permanent house at the women’s village at Tandorima. They also looted property.

Most of the relatives of the two women victims have since fled the area and police evacuated the rest to safe locations since Tuesday last week.

The last family was evacuated by Insp. Birengka’s team on Friday.

According to Insp. Birengka, the two women were bashed up and taken captive last Tuesday night by relatives of a former school teacher who passed away a few weeks ago.

"The two women were rounded up and taken to Lopele village after they were suspected of practicing sorcery and blamed for the death of the former teacher, who was from Lopele village," he told the Post-Courier.

After torturing them for three days and nights, they were finally beheaded.

According to a police report, the women were badly assaulted and received deep knife and axe wounds to their bodies.

Insp. Birengka said police had tried their very best to intervene and mediate, but things did not work out the way police wanted as the Lopele villagers ruled out any intervention by police or mediation by church representatives and village leaders within the area.

"We even organized a customary mediation team from Arawa to go and talk with the Lopele villagers but this too was turned down. We managed to collect some knives and axes from the villagers but were threatened and we had to retreat from the area," Insp. Birengka said.

He said police had to take a cautious stand since day one and did not want to resort to force as the whole situation could have turned nasty with more lives at stake.

They tried all they could by opting for a peaceful resolution through mediation, but this did not work out.

As a result, the two women were beheaded on the spot and in the presence of the police.

Insp. Birengka told Post-Courier after returning from Lopele that the villagers had shown utter disregard for law and justice and beheaded the two in the presence of the police.

A very disappointed Insp. Birengka blasted his senior officers in Buka.

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