Dozens of people, including children aged from one to 15, have been killed in a tribal massacre in the Hela province of Papua New Guinea.
The tribal killings, which are considered to be one of the worst waves of violence in the country, took place early Monday during a raid on a small interior village Karida.
Hela provincial administrator William Bando confirmed that at least 24 people, including two pregnant women and young children, have been killed in a brutal flare up of violence between rival tribes that continued for several days in Hela.
Four women and three men were brutally killed in Munima village on Sunday. On Monday, eight children and eight women were killed in Karida.
Tribal wars in Papua New Guinea are quite common and have been going on since 20 years in the country. Prime Minister James Marape said it is “one of the saddest days of my life”, while promising to apprehend the people responsible for the killings.
Philip Pimua, the officer in charge of the Karida sub-health centre, said the attack in Karida village took place at around 6am on Monday after people opened the doors to the perpetrators.
“I wake up in the morning, go to make a fire in my kitchen, at the same time I heard the sound of guns, then I saw some of the houses they were burning, so I knew that enemies are already inside the village,” Pimua said.
“So I just ran away and hide in the bush, then later on, about 9 or 10, I came back and saw bodies chopped into pieces and houses were burnt.”
The reason behind the brutal killings remains unknown. But, Pimua said guns and bush knives were used to attack the villagers, whom he calls as his own people.
Pimua said he knew all of the victims. However, their bodies were badly dismembered, making it difficult to identify the victims.
“They were cut into pieces. Some had body parts we couldn’t recognise which one is which one, only the faces we can recognise, but legs, hands…”
In the recent years, there have been several reports of killings, reprisals and sexual violence from the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Availability of weapons has made the situation worse than ever.
In a Facebook post, Marape blamed the scarce police force in the region, saying “How can a province of 400,000 people function with policing law and order with under 60 policemen?” But, said he would use “strongest measures in law” to punish the perpetrators.