PNG police clash with 'cargo cult'

The Age, Australia/May 9, 2007

Police in Papua New Guinea have fought gun battles with members of an alleged cargo cult movement following reports of beheadings and heads being paraded about on stakes.

Extra police and a police helicopter have been sent to the Sialum area of Morobe Province.

At least one villager has been reported killed and others injured in gunfights with police sent to quell disturbances in the area where homes and other properties have been destroyed, local newspapers reported on Wednesday.

Police officers sent to investigate the alleged kidnapping of a child clashed with villagers and exchanged gunfire last week, Morobe Provincial Police Commander Augustine Wampe told The National newspaper.

Two police officers were seriously injured, including one with an arrow wound to his leg, he said.

A later armed confrontation between mobile squad members and villagers sparked unconfirmed reports one villager was killed and several injured, Wampe said.

Following that incident, villagers went on a rampage at Kalume, attacking police and public servants, burning houses and killing and chopping up a man believed to be a tribal enemy, he said

A police mobile squad would remain in the area until two police weapons were returned by villagers who seized them during the first confrontation, Wampe said.

He said police wanted to investigate reports of several murders in which people were beheaded and their heads impaled on stakes and paraded around.

"The reported activities of the people point to cult activity," Wampe said.

Police wanted to restore peace and bring those responsible for the killings and kidnapping to justice, he said.

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