Tragic attack in Highlands region of Papua New Guinea Claims Lives of dozens

Authorities report that numerous individuals have lost their lives in a tribal conflict in Papua New Guinea’s isolated Highlands region.

According to a national police spokesman who spoke to the BBC, the victims were fatally shot during an ambush in the Enga province over the weekend.

The Highlands area has a history of violence, but these recent killings are considered the most severe in years.

There has been a rise in illegal firearms leading to more lethal clashes and perpetuating a cycle of violence.

Initially, authorities reported a death toll of at least 64 people. However, subsequent reports indicated that there had been a miscount and the toll was revised to 26. The BBC has requested confirmation from the Papua New Guinea police.

Authorities began retrieving bodies at the site close to the town of Wabag, approximately 600km (373 miles) northwest of the capital Port Moresby.

“This is by far the largest incident I’ve seen in Enga, maybe in all of Highlands as well,” Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary Acting Supt George Kakas told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

We are all deeply saddened and mentally strained. It’s quite challenging to understand.

Media outlets report that police have received graphic videos and photos allegedly from the scene, depicting bodies being loaded onto a truck.

A three-month lockdown was imposed in Enga last July due to escalating tribal conflict related to the distribution of land and wealth. Police enforced a curfew and travel restrictions during this period.

Back in August of last year, the violence gained global attention when graphic footage of three deceased men started circulating online.

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According to Governor Peter Ipatas, there were indications that fighting was going to break out again before the ambush occurred, as reported by ABC.

With as many as 17 tribes participating in the recent escalation, the responsibility to maintain peace fell on the security forces, according to him.

“From a local standpoint, we anticipated this conflict and informed the authorities last week to ensure they took necessary steps to prevent it.”

Security continues to be a major focus for PNG. Last month, the government announced a state of emergency following widespread rioting and looting that resulted in the deaths of at least 15 people.

Australia – one of the country’s closest allies – expressed deep concern over the reports of the killings.

“We’re offering significant assistance, especially in training police officers and enhancing security in Papua New Guinea,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese mentioned in a radio interview on Monday.

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