By ANDREW ALPHONSE in TARI
THE ethnic clash in Tari, Southern Highlands province that erupted over pornographic material being displayed on a mobile phone has escalated with an innocent man being axed to death yesterday.
The killing has brought the deceased’s clan into the conflict that has been raging since Saturday.
Police said the youth was in a PMV returning from Mt Hagen to his Tawanda village in South Koroba when he was dragged out of the vehicle at a road block at Waralo and axed to death.
The assailants did not even listen to an elderly man’s pleas to spare the innocent man.
Police said the young man had taken no part in the tribal warfare between the Pipi and Tapo clans which started on Saturday. “He was an innocent young man trying to return home from Mt Hagen when he was pulled out of the passing PMV truck and axed to death in cold blood at about 8.30am today (yesterday).”
The deceased was identified as Andalu Bola, 20, from the Arua clan.His clan has now teamed up with the Tapo clan to fight the Pipi clan.
The fighting started on Saturday after a youth from the Tapo clan showed pornographic pictures to a young woman from the Pipi clan. She reported the matter to her brothers who confronted the Tapo youth. In the ensuing fight, the woman’s elder brother was shot dead, resulting in all-out warfare between the two clans.
Police say they lack manpower and firepower to stop the fight, which has now left two dead and many injured from gun and axe wounds.
Fighting has now escalated with several houses torched. From Tari, columns of smoke can be seen rising from the hills of Waralo and Haro where the clansmen are engaged in the fight.
Police said they need more manpower, weapons and logistics to move into the area to stop the fighting before more lives are lost.
A police mobile unit continues to patrol the highway, making sure the warring clans stay off the road.
International road contractor Curtain Brothers (CB) PNG Ltd, based in Tari, has scaled down work since Saturday at their quarry at Halimbu, situated near the battlefield.
Company sources said while their machines and staff have not been affected by the fighting, they have stopped work for security reasons.
About K10 million worth of machines and equipment remain idle at the crusher site and quarry at Halimbu for the past five days now.
Curtain Brothers is currently working on the Tari-Ambua road sealing project which is funded by the provincial government. The road project starts at Halimbu within the vicinity of the battlefield.
Tari police sources are appealing to the provincial and national governments to declare a fighting zone in the area as the fight can escalate further and may be a security concern to the progress of the early works on the multi-billion kina PNG LNG project.