13 Nov 2013

14 reported dead in Southern Highlands violence in PNG

5:18 pm on 13 November 2013

A 50-strong force of Papua New Guinea police will today travel to Kagua district of Southern Highlands after violence that has simmered for months boiled over early on Monday with at least 14 people killed.

Houses were burnt down and there are reports a military grenade was used, but the Southern Highlands police commander, chief inspector Sibron Papoto, says that is yet to be confirmed.

Mr Papoto, who only began in the role this week, told Don Wiseman the information they have is sketchy.

SIBRON PAPOTO: It was an ongoing fight. It started last year in October or so immediately after the election. People have lost their lives up until a few days ago when that recent incident occurred.

DON WISEMAN: If you could just tell me about this particular incident. There have been reports that 14 people lost their lives. Is that correct?

SP: Yes, yes. That's confirmed from the report that we got from the leaders in Kagua. 14 confirmed dead and 3 got injured.

DW: Houses were set alight. How were they set alight, because there have been reports saying an army-type grenade was used, but that's disputed?

SP: My policemen couldn't get into the exact location to confirm all these things. So right now I can't confirm whether that hand grenade was used or some other type of weapons were used. Because of the tense situation they couldn't get in there. So I am in the process of organising extra reinforcement - about 50 people policemen will go in and they will camp out at a school near where the incident occurred and then try to contain that situation. But I'm not really sure. Like I said, I just moved into the office, so I'm not really sure as I do not have the reliable information or report on the incident, but what we were told was that several houses were burnt and the occupants of the houses were still inside when the houses caught on fire. And those that tried to escape out of the houses were shot dead and then their bodies were thrown back into the houses. So we have also organised our medical officers to go in and examine the bodies who were killed and got burned. Right now it is just sketchy reports that we've got.

DW: You're sending in this large squad to try and contain the situation. So what's happening at this point?

SP: In Kagua, well, it's really tense. It's between the two warring clans. It's not kind of a tribal fight. It's really different. It's some kind of hide and seek, or something like that. They got caught by surprise. So it was during the night that this incident happened. It wasn't during the day where they can actually fight on a battlefield or so. So right now, as I said, we haven't got full details, very reliable details, on what actually happened there. This is just a brief report that we've got from the policemen who actually went down there.