At least 10 dead in Papua New Guinea tribal fight over pig: report

SYDNEY (AFP) - At least 10 people died and several others were taken to hospital with gunshot wounds after a tribal fight over a stolen pig in Papua New Guinea, local media reported Wednesday.

The clash, in the highland province of Hela, erupted between the Wapiago and Tapamu clans, Assistant Police Commissioner Teddy Tei told PNG's Post-Courier.

Provincial police commander Mark Yangen said a girl aged six and a 60-year-old woman were among those killed.

"The fighting started over a pig. The suspect (who allegedly stole the pig) was arrested, then the owner of the pig came up with a gun and shot two guys, the relatives of the guy who was stealing the pig," Yangen told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"From then a fight flared up and four men were murdered at the scene... and two on the other side of the group." He did not say when the fight started or explain the other deaths.

Pigs are seen as the most important livestock in the Pacific nation. They are kept not just for income but also as key cultural status symbols, and are central to initiation rites and marriages.

Tei said the pig's owner, a local councillor who was not identified, and several other people were blamed for starting the fight, which saw school classes suspended and women and children fleeing to a nearby district over safety fears.

He called on the alleged attackers to come forward.

"If they fail to surrender to police, I will come and look for them," Tei said, while Hela deputy provincial administrator Kope Waiko pleaded for a halt to the fighting.

"We are all acting like pigs if we kill each other just for pigs," he told the Post-Courier.

"We can't allow another 10 lives to be lost just for the sake of one stolen pig, and you people must listen to police and stop fighting now."