Early morning attack in village leaves 15 dead in PNG's Highlands

9:05 pm on 9 July 2019

Fifteen women and children were massacred in an early morning attack in a village in Papua New Guinea's Highlands region.

The attack on Monday occurred in Tagali local level government area of Hela province's Tari-Pori district, the electorate of prime minister James Marape.

Homes in Western Highlands province, Papua New Guinea

A Highlands village in Papua New Guinea. File Photo. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Police spokesman Thomas Levongo says he went to examine the scene in in Karida village, adding that the victims were ten women and five children.

He said it was not totally clear who launched the vicious attack which had hallmarks of the 'seek and hide'-type tribal violence which has plagued Hela in recent years.

"They know how to attack their own enemies. They were in the house, and they went and attacked while they were sleeping.

"They've got arms and also they were attacked by the bushknife, sharp bushknife," Mr Levongo explained.

"We went to the scene to make investigation but the thing is, this is the 'seek and hide' game, and they went in the early hours, and there's nobody there to witness, to witness how they were attacked. They hardly identified the suspects."

Reluctant to attribute the attack to a particular tribe, Mr Levongo said police were investigating and had received information that the killers may have come from different areas.

The attack has been portrayed as out of the blue, with Mr Levongo saying no clear causal event preceded it, but that it could have been in retaliation for another attack some time beforehand.

However he added that at least six other deaths from armed conflict have occurred in Tagali since last Friday.