PNG Tribal Violence Erupts Near Hides LNG Project Site

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Helicopters, high powered weapons allegedly used; 4 killed

By Andrew Alphonse

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, March 10, 2014) – A fiery and heavy gun battle between two warring tribes near the gates of Hides gas project developer Oil Search Limited’s Nogoli base camp in Tari has placed the upstream segment of the multi-billion PNG LNG project in Hela province under serious threat.

Four people have been gunned down in cold blood, including an innocent nine-month pregnant mother by warring gunmen, as intense fighting extends from Nogoli to Kangulu in Komo and along the road to Hides 4 areas.

OSL management at Hides gas project on Friday asked for the deployment of Tari based police mobile squad 09 unit to protect its operations and facilities including staff and employees who are holed up inside the Nogoli camp and are not able to move about freely due to raging gun battle.

The fight between the Alia and Mapulu sub-clans of the major Ware clan that lives on the fringes on Nogoli and in Komo areas, started last Wednesday and apart from the four lives lost, millions of kina worth of properties in guesthouses, shops and permanent homes built at the gates on Nogoli OSL camp have been razed to the ground.

Hela provincial police commander acting Chief Supt Mark Yangen yesterday confirmed the fight and said it is a big threat to the LNG project as the two sides are using high powered and sophisticated weapons.

Supt Yangen said they also have intelligence reports of the two clans hiring helicopters to smuggle in firearms from Enga and Southern Highlands province to use in the fight.

Supt Yangen has deployed a 30-men mobile squad unit from Tari to Nogoli to beef up security at the Nogoli camp after some of the warriors jumped over the OSL fence and tried to seek refuge from their enemies.

He said the police mobile squad based at the OSL held them at gunpoint and seized their weapons which included an SLR rifle with four rounds, one single shot factory made gun and about 30 home-made guns.

Supt Yangen said police believe the fight started over the unequal distribution of a K1.1 million benefit paid to the clans that live at Nogoli.

He said some drunk youths were not happy in the way the money was distributed and went to enquire with the other clan when all hell broke loose and one innocent youth, identified as Junior Tobias, was gunned down at point-blank range.

Supt Yangen said in retaliation, another man, identified as Bushman Lajandenge, 18 from Miok clan in Telekos village in Wapenamanda, Enga Province who has been residing with the Mapulu sub-clan, was also gunned down.

Supt Yangen said the enemies also went in pursuit of another man running for his life towards the mighty Tagali River and gunned him down but he has yet to verify this report.

Supt Yangen said the fight extended south towards Komo where an innocent pregnant mother was shot dead at point blank inside her home in Kangulu in Komo.

Supt Yangen said the situation is still tense and he will be requesting for additional manpower and reinforcement from his superiors, while police are conducting random checks on all vehicles passing to Nogoli, Komo and Hides, to monitor and track the smuggling of high-powered weapons to be used in the fight.

He said he would lead some of his men to the fighting zone in an attempt to talk to the leaders to stop fighting tomorrow.

OSL, LNG project operator ExxonMobil and its international consortium partners are on high alert and warned their employees and vehicles to keep within the boundaries of the camp.

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