Pregnant women among victims of killings in small village of Karida, in an area beset by internecine violence
At least 15 women and children have been killed in a massacre in Papua New Guinea’s Hela province, in one of the worst outbreaks of tribal violence in the country for years, The Guardian reports.
The killings happened on early Monday morning during a raid on Karida, a village of about 800 people in the interior of the country.
Philip Pimua, the officer in charge of the Karida sub-health centre, who was in the village at the time of the attack, told the Guardian that there were 16 victims – eight children aged from one to 15 and eight women, two of whom were pregnant.
RNZ reports that there were 15 victims – 10 women and five children – citing Tari police spokesman Thomas Levongo who examined the scene at Karida. Levongo could not be reached for comment.
Pimua said the attack happened at about 6am on Monday morning, with people killed after opening the door to attackers.
“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.”
As well as guns, bush knives were used in the attack.
Pimua said he knew all the victims – “they are my people, I know them” – but that some were so badly dismembered that he and other villagers struggled to identify the remains.
“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…”
Pimua said he and other villagers had wrapped the bodies in mosquito nets, and then fled the village, fearing that the attackers were still hiding in the bush and might strike again. He said they hoped to return to bury the bodies on Wednesday, but were waiting for police to come and escort them.
Pimua said the attack was from “enemies” and may have been connected to tribal violence, saying “they have fought for a long time there”.
Hela province and other areas in the highlands of Papua New Guinea have been beset by tribal violence in recent years. There have been reports of killings, reprisals and sexual violence, all made worse with the increasing availability of firearms.
PNG police told the Post Courier the attack followed an ambush attack on Saturday, which left six people dead.
Asked if this was the worst attack his village had ever seen, Pimua said: “It’s the worst, very worst, in the history of this country too.”
The attack occurred in the electorate of Papua New Guinea’s new prime minister, James Marape, who described the day as “one of the saddest” of his life.
In a Facebook post, Marape said the attack was led by gunmen from the Haguai, Okiru and Liwi tribes and said he would seek out and punish the perpetrators, using the “strongest measures in law”.
“In memory of the innocent who continue to die at the hands of gun-toting criminals, your time is up, before I had someone else to report to, now I have no one else to report to but the innocent you kill,” he wrote.
“To all who have guns and kill and hide behind the mask of community, learn from what I will do to criminals who killed innocent people … I am coming for you.”
Marape also blamed insufficient police resources in the region, saying he had been asking for more permanent police to be stationed in the area since 2012, but had not had any support.
“How can a province of 400,000 people function with policing law and order with under 60 policemen?” Marape wrote.
Pimua was doubtful about the likelihood that those responsible for the attack would be caught. “If prime minister use special forces from some other countries to come and find these people then he can do it, OK, but for our security forces, I don’t think so,” he said.
The ICRC Papua New Guinea head of mission, Ahmad Hallak, said: “We are very concerned by reports that women and children have been killed and urge all sides to refrain from targeting anyone who is not directly engaged in the fighting.
“We are monitoring the situation closely and are in touch with our contacts in the area. Once we can confirm the situation has stabilised, an ICRC team will visit the area to assess the humanitarian consequences of the fighting before deciding on a possible response.”