The South Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea has been wracked with tribal warfare over access and distribution of resources for many years — and that ongoing struggle erupted in a violent massacre of innocent women and children earlier this week.
According to multiple reports, upwards of 18 people were killed by tribal fighters wielding guns and long knives on Monday. The vast majority of those victims were children and women, at least two of whom were reportedly pregnant.
Innocent lives lost
Reuters reported that up to 18 people were slaughtered in the remote village of Karida in Hela Province in what was believed to be retaliation for an attack on another village days earlier.
The governor of the province, Philip Undailu, said it was a “very sad story” and went on to suggest that those who were killed were targeted for offering shelter to others during a prior attack on the village.
“Both attacks were made in an innocent community where people were not expecting it, and all of us are in a state of shock,” Undailu said.
Prime Minister James Marape, who just took office in May, released a statement on Facebook about what he called the “saddest day of my life.” He cast blame for the massacre upon three specific tribes and lamented the limited police and military resources available to provide security in the region, asking: “How can a province of 400,000 people function with policing law and order with under 60 policemen?”
“In memory of the innocent who continue to die at the hands of gun-toting criminals, your time is up,” Marape added. “Before I had someone else to report to, now I have no one else to report to but the innocent you kill.”
He went on: “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 not afraid to use strongest measures in law on you… I am coming for you.”
According to The Guardian, a Health Department worker in the village reported that the attack commenced around 6 a.m. Homes were burned while residents were shot and some reportedly cut up beyond recognition.
Acting Police Commissioner Francis Tokura said in a statement that what had occurred was a “tragedy,” and characterized the murders as having been an “unbelievable, unthinkable and atrocious criminal act that must be dealt with swiftly and severely.”
He also announced the formation of a 30-man team to hunt down the killers and bring them to justice. He said a study would also be conducted to see if additional police presence is needed in the area to prevent further attacks.
Hopefully, those who brutally massacred innocent women and children will indeed be found and brought to a “swift and severe” justice for what was done.