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Dozens killed in tribal violence in Papua New Guinea

Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea James Marape addressing the United Nations General Assembly in 2022. Associated Press/Photo by Julia Nikhinson, file

Dozens killed in tribal violence in Papua New Guinea

At least 26 combatants and an unspecified number of bystanders died in the Highlands region, local police said Monday. Fighters and mercenaries from one tribe were on their way to attack another tribe when assailants ambushed them, the police told Australian and British journalists. Authorities initially reported the death toll as 53 people but then revised the number down to just over two dozen.

Is this sort of tribal violence? The U.S. State Department a month ago issued a “reconsider travel” advisory to American citizens for the whole of Papua New Guinea, citing “crime, civil unrest, and piracy.” For the Highlands region specifically—where the ambush took place—the Department had issued a more severe “do not travel” advisory, saying “There is a heightened risk of civil unrest from tribal violence throughout the region.” In its “Papua New Guinea Country Security Report,” the Department says the tribal warfare in the country can “occasionally resemble indigenous terrorism.”

Why is there so much violence in the region? “Long-standing animosities among isolated tribes,” and a cultural tradition of revenge were cited by the State Department in a 2022 report on human rights in the country. The area also has a lack of local law enforcement, according to another State Department Human Rights Report. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet also indicated in a letter to the United Nations back in 2021 that more protections were needed against election-related violence. The United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review report on Papua New Guinea from 2021 does chart some ways the country has sought to increase its protection of human rights.

Dig deeper: Read Amy Lewis’ report in the WORLD archives about Papua New Guinea’s neighbor the Solomon Islands’ new connections with China.

Josh Schumacher

Josh is a breaking news reporter for WORLD. He’s a graduate of World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College.

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