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POLICE and soldiers have been sent to Papua New Guinea’s highlands to make arrests and provide security after more than 20 people, mostly women and children, were slain in recent tribal violence over a feud that has lasted for years, officials said yesterday.
In the latest attack, 16 women and children were killed this week by assailants armed with rifles in the village of Karida in Hela province.
PNG Acting Police Commissioner Francis Tokura said the slaughter was probably retaliation for an ambush near Peta village on Saturday that left six or seven people dead.
Prime Minister James Marape blamed a police shortage in Hela for the lawlessness. “How can a province of 400,000 people function with policing law and order with under 60 policemen ...?” he wrote.
Thousands are displaced each year due to fighting in Papua New Guinea’s interior, where villagers avenge relatives in retaliation known as payback, but the weekend violence has been linked to territorial control of Mount Kare, thought to be rich in gold resources.
Hela official Rex Humbi said the latest violence was part of a tribal war that had been waged for more than 15 years. The killers were possessed by Satan and “feed on the soul, or the spirits, of the innocents that have been lost,” Mr Humbi said.
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