Tribal fighting Leads to the Death of 53 in Papua New Guinea

What You Need to Know:

53 people have been killed in what Papua New Guinea Police have called a ‘massacre’ in the nation’s highlands. 

The deceased are believed to have been shot and killed in an ambush in Enga Province, with the attack the result of fighting between at least 17 different tribes. 

Speaking to ABC news, Constabulary acting Superintendent George Kakas claimed that those killed were on the way to attack a neighboring tribe when they were ambushed.

“These tribesmen have been killed all over the countryside, all over the bush,” he said. 

“Police and defense forces have had to go in to do their best to quell the situation at their own risk.”

“We started collecting bodies, scattered all over the battlefield, the roads, the riverside … and they were loaded onto police trucks and taken to the hospital.”

The Details:

The 2022 general election in the country sparked a wave of tribal violence in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, with much of Enga Province being put under curfew, with no flights in or out of the province in September of 2023, due to the escalating violence between tribes and ‘raskols’ (criminals) against civilians.

Gun Running in PNG: 

According to Philip Alpers, an associate professor at Australia’s Sydney University, most guns used in crimes in Papua New Guinea are not brought in through the international arms trade, but instead bought from soldiers and police, or stolen during home invasions from legal gun owners. 

Although there is a small illicit cross-border arms trade present in the country, the majority of guns seized during police raids on smugglers are small arms, such as pistols and the occasional rifle. 

Additionally, politicians have been implicated in the illegal gun trade in the nation, with the Post Courier, a Papua New Guinean newspaper, reporting in 2023 on the arrest of “two members of parliament and one former governor who are allegedly involved in the proliferation of firearms and ammunition in the Highlands.”

So, What Now?:

Police are calling for calm in the province, although it is likely this massacre will trigger killings of those responsible in retribution. 


Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger is a Political Science Graduate from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Currently working as an Editor for The ModernInsurgent and writing for Atlas News, her interests include conflict politics, history, yoga and meditation.


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