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One dead, 16 hurt as shoes spark PNG tribal fight

A dispute over a boy's shoes sparked a brutal tribal fight in Papua New Guinea that left one man dead, 16 people seriously hurt and three homes destroyed, a newspaper said on Tuesday.
/ Source: Reuters

A dispute over a boy's shoes sparked a brutal tribal fight in Papua New Guinea that left one man dead, 16 people seriously hurt and three homes destroyed, a newspaper said on Tuesday.

Sunday's clash in Mount Hagen in the rugged highlands of the South Pacific nation followed an argument over shoes worn by a Kimi tribe boy that a Moge tribe family said had been stolen from one of its children.

"He gave them the shoes and later a family member went to talk to the leaders of the (Moge) tribe but he was attacked and chopped on his hips," the boy's father, Benson Hima, told The Post Courier newspaper.

Hima said Moge tribesmen surrounded Kimi houses on Sunday, using axes and bushknives to attack anyone who came out, even women and children.

Papua New Guinea is a nation of 600 islands and 85 percent of its 5.3 million people live a subsistence existence in villages clinging to jungle-clad mountains.

Tribal allegiances dominate the country, which is divided by 850 languages, and surviving tribal customs such as "payback" often spark tribal wars that run for weeks.

A tribal meeting with police is to be held on Tuesday in Mount Hagen, 520 km (320 miles) northwest of the capital Port Moresby, in a bid to stop the fighting.

"The situation is quite tense, very, very tense," Gari Baki, deputy police commissioner in Port Moresby, told the paper.