'Chopped into pieces': Children, pregnant women killed in village massacre

More than 20 people, including pregnant women and children, have reportedly been killed in recent tribal violence in Papua New Guinea.

The death toll and dates of the violence in the remote highland province of Hela varied in reports by ABC and the local Post-Courier newspaper.

Grisly photos depicting the aftermath of an ambush killing in the village of Karida in the highland province were shared on Facebook.

“This is the photo of 16 people killed in Karida on Monday morning at around 6am,” a local health worker posted. “Some chopped into pieces and hard to recognize (sic) their body parts.”

Two pregnant women were reportedly among the victims. Source: Facebook/Pills Loko

Hela Governor Philip Undialu told ABC the latest violence was on Monday when 16 people including women and children died at the village of Karida.

The killings were likely retaliation for an earlier attack that left around seven dead, Undialu said.

The Post-Courier, based in the South Pacific island nation's capital Port Moresby, reported as many as 24 people were killed in the villages of Karida and Peta since Saturday.

Tribal violence is not uncommon in the PNG highlands. Source: Facebook/Pills Kolo

Six people had been ambushed and killed near Peta on Saturday, Hela Police Chief Inspector Teddy Augwi told the newspaper.

The victims' relatives retaliated with rifles the next day, killing between 16 and 18 people at Karida, including pregnant women, he said.

"This is not a tribal fight where the opposing villagers face each other on field," Augwi told the newspaper. "This is a fight in guerrilla warfare, meaning they play hide-and-seek and ambush their enemies."

Many villagers had fled the violence, Hela Administrator William Bando told the newspaper.

Tribal violence is common in Papua New Guinea's interior, where villagers avenge relatives in retaliation known as payback.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape said those responsible for the fatal attacks could face the death penalty, ABC reported.

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