Killings in Hela Province were payback

The horrific massacre of almost 30 women and children in Hela Province in Papua New Guinea’s highlands were the worst payback killings in the country’s history, the police minister has said.

Bryan Kramer made the declaration after visiting Hela province, where 16 people were slaughtered by rival clansmen in Karida village following killings the previous day in neighbouring Munima village.

The motive for the massacre is unclear and the total death toll from a series of attacks had also varied.

During his trip to the region, Kramer said it appeared rival clans had taken the rare step of targeting women and children after the elderly mother of a tribal leader was killed in an earlier raid.

He described “the horrific killing of 23 women and children” as the “worst payback killing in our country’s history”.

Tribal violence is a long-standing problem in Papua New Guinea. However, attacks on women and children were essentially unprecedented, authorities and locals have said.

The level of tribal violence has been increasing in recent years.