Death toll rises to 33 as ‘bloody’ fight starts again in SHP

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By PISAI GUMAR
AFTER an apparent two-week “rest and recuperate” hiatus, the Sugu Valley tribal fighters started their bloodbath clashes on Tuesday – claiming three lives.
The death toll for the more than four-month-long battle involving at least six tribes has risen to 33.
The running tribal war is being fought guerilla-style with high powered guns, rifles, bows and arrows, knives and other weapons.
Southern Highlands police commander Chief Supt Martin Lakari confirmed the three killings in the Kagua-Erave valley.
“We thought the situation was back to normalcy as the clashes and fights had stopped for two weeks. But the killings started on Tuesday,” Lakari, who is in Kagua, said.
“Additional policemen and Papua New Guinea Defence Force personnel were deployed on Monday to try to stop the bloody fights.
“If security forces fail to restore normalcy and peace within two weeks, the next option is to have the provincial government declare the area as an Inter-Group Fighting Zone (IGFZ), and take its course in Kagua-Erave.
“Once IGFZ is declared, it will give broader powers for security forces to move into the villages, hunt down armed forces and arrest anyone in possession of weapons, be it men, women or children, on the spot.
“The armed tribe fighters will be brought to Mendi, charged and detained to appear in court. But, I believe, with heavy security presence in Kagua and our forces moving into Sugu Valley, the warring tribes may stop fighting or raiding villages.
“I am on the ground and this is my security priority.”
Sugu Valley villager Sixtu Rekari said the Kambiya tribe fighters burnt down some houses in Wapuruvi village and then raided Katiloma, shooting dead two men and razing more houses.
The Katiloma tribe fighters retaliated and killed a Kambiya man.
Meanwhile, local businessman Maita Yawi was upset over the recent three killings and appealed to Kambiya (Ya’ala) tribe to lay down arms, respect human dignity and allow peace and normalcy to prevail.
More fighting and killing are believed to have erupted in Wabesumi involving Sare and Roalomanda council wards.
Perepe and Wambeya leader Rocky Kula said Yawi had courageously intervened to broker peace using his own resources.
Kula said the local community leaders are urging Kagua-Erave district development authority and Southern Highlands government to intervene swiftly to establish neutral peace mediation and negotiation team to bring normalcy.
Kula said that Yawi needed help and support from all government authorities to help restore peace and normalcy in his meetings with warring tribe leaders.

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