PNG military operation underway in Hela

2:22 pm on 11 January 2017

A surge of security personnel is fanning across Papua New Guinea's Hela Province as a large-scale operation to restore law and order to the province gets underway.

Hela Province Tribesmen

Hela Province Tribesmen Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Three-hundred police and military personnel arrived in the province, which is home to the lucrative LNG gas project, on Monday after months of tribal fighting and a build-up of firearms.

Police operations commander, Assistant Commissioner David Manning, said the mission's first objective will be to go from district to district to try and clear the firearms ahead of this year's election.

"We're talking high powered military and law enforcement-type weapons -- M16s, SLRs, AR15s -- and there is a large number of homemade shotguns that are out there in the community. So over the next couple of days we will be deploying mobile squads and defence force personnel to those districts."

Mr Manning said the security operation is expected to last until the end of February.

However, he said it is expected to take a lot longer to restore law and order in Hela, and reconciliation is needed between tribes, and provincial governance needs to be rebuilt.

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