Screen capture of Google Earth

PORT MORESBY, 10 JULY 2019 (POST COURIER)) — Two pregnant women and children were among at least 22 people killed in the Tagali LLG, Tari-Pori district, Hela Province, last Saturday and a retaliatory attack the following day.

According to Hela administrator William Bando and provincial police commander Chief Inspector Teddy Augwi, the killings followed fighting in the villages of Munima, Peta and Karida in which 24 people were killed in three days.

“Six people were returning from a compensation ceremony on Saturday, 06 July, and were near Peta village when they were ambushed and killed at the roadside,” Chief Insp Augwi said.

“In retaliation on Sunday morning, 07 July, 16 people were killed when the relatives of the deceased retaliated outside Karida village and in an executed plan, raided and using high-powered rifles, shot dead the 18 people, including two pregnant women and children.”

Tagali LLG is located along the ranges, overlooking South Koroba and the Tari Basin.

“This is not a tribal fight where the opposing villages face each other on field, this is a fight in guerilla warfare, meaning they play hide-and-seek and ambush their enemies,” Augwi said.

“We are shocked in the manner women and children were killed, this is not tribal war but guerilla warfare,” Bando said.

Bando said the provincial law and order committee would be meeting today to decide on whether the Tagali LLG would be declared as a fighting zone.

“We will wait for the response from the Prime Minister James Marape, who is the Tari-Pori MP, and Hela Governor Philip Undialu to get back to us on whether we should declare the area a fighting zone. Should it be declared a fighting zone, the police and PNG Defence Force will be able to arrest those who continue to cause issues,” he said.

He called on ExxonMobil in Hides to release the services of the police mobile squad 09 to return to Tari to help with ensuring peace and safety in the Tagali LLG area.

“We need them here in the area to ensure our women and children are safe. The actions taken by those who shot the women and children is traumatising and despicable,” he said.

The bodies of the slain are in Tari, with many more villagers escaping the area into town, Bando said, adding that police and the PNGDF were checking on the situation.

Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape has condemned the killings.

“Today is one of the saddest days of my life, many children and mothers innocently murdered in Munima and Karida villages of my electorate by Haguai, Liwi and OKiru gunmen.

“My electorate in Hela Province hosts LNG and power transmission line for Porgera gold mine and since 2012 I have been requesting for more permanent Police yet Konedobu police headquarters has not supported me.

“How can a province of 400,000 people function with policing law and order with under 60 policemen, and occasional operational military and police that does no more then band aid maintenance.

“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.

“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. Last week I responded to question on death penalty on the floor of parliament, it is already a law.

To Haguai, OKiru and Liwi, plus others in Tari who have been living off killing others, I am coming for you,” Marape said in a facebook post. (PACNEWS)