Spears, machetes used in deadly attack on trekkers in PNG

SYDNEY (AFP) - A group of Australian and New Zealand trekkers have been savagely attacked and injured in Papua New Guinea with two of their guides hacked to death, government officials said on Wednesday.

The deadly incident happened at dusk on Tuesday along the popular Black Cat Track in the lawless Pacific nation's northern Morobe province.

"The attack resulted in the deaths of two PNG nationals who were porters for the group," Australia's department of foreign affairs (DFAT) said.

"Other members of the group, including eight Australians, one New Zealander and a number of PNG nationals, sustained injuries during the attack, however none of the injuries are life-threatening."

PNG police spokesman Dominic Kakas told AFP the porters were hacked to death with machetes and four of the trekkers were badly assaulted, including one who was speared.

"One of the expatriates was speared through the left leg, one was slashed on the arm, another suffered severe lacerations to the head and another also had severe cuts," he said.

"Some of the other porters were more seriously injured.

"There were six in the mob that attacked them," he added, with all escaping. "One had a rifle, another a home-made gun, as well as bush knives and spears."

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said workers at a local mining company helped the injured and traumatised trekkers walk to a medical clinic at their nearby camp. Police spokesman Kakas said they were then taken to a hospital in Lae.

Spokesman Mark Hitchcock for tour operator PNG Trekking Adventures said the injured Australians were now comfortable and resting.

"This is an isolated area, an isolated incident that shocked us all.

Totally out of character for the track," he told ABC.

"This is the first ever trouble that we've had on any track in Papua New Guinea. It's a difficult track, the Black Cat Track, and there have been some issues with other companies a long time ago, but of recent time there's been a lot of development gone into the track since 2005."

The motive for the attack was not clear, although some reports suggested it could be related to a disagreement between porters from PNG's lowlands and locals living in the highlands.

The Black Cat Track runs between Wau and Salamaua in northern PNG.

It was the scene of bitter fighting between Australian and US troops and Japanese forces in 1943, and is regarded as one of the most challenging treks in the wild and mountainous country.

DFAT said it was recommending that trekkers avoid the Black Cat Track until local police have investigated the incident.