26 Feb 2007

A PNG police commander says claims of violence in Mt Hagen exaggerated

8:18 pm on 26 February 2007

The police commander in Papua New Guinea's Western Highlands province says a gun shootout in Mt Hagen on Friday is indicative of a social rather than a law and order problem.

The city was under siege from criminals with high-powered weapons, who exchanged gunfire with police, while breaking into a bank and a hardware house in the early hours of last Friday

National media reported that terrified city residents woke up to the sounds of gunfire as the criminals traded bullets with police before escaping.

A policeman was reportedly injured in the shootout, and the national government has been urged to declare a state of emergency in the province.

But the police commander Am Bane says the situation is calm again, as it has been for many months now.

"It's not a law and order problem. It is just a social problem with tribes. Tribes who have problems in their own places so they fight each other. Then they come to the city and they met and they tried to fight, but we stopped them."