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 / Updated  / Source: Reuters

BANGKOK — A woman in Papua New Guinea was axed to death after being accused of using witchcraft to spark a measles outbreak in the country's remote jungle highlands, an American missionary said after meeting authorities.

The victim, Mifila, was one of four women accused along with 13 of their family members of using sorcery to cause measles deaths last November, according to Lutheran missionary Anton Lutz.

Women are often accused and killed in witch hunts even though laws passed in 2013 make revenge killings over black magic punishable by death. Human Rights Watch earlier this year named Papua New Guinea as one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman due to gender-based violence.

Lutz, an American who grew up in the South Pacific nation, led a group of about 20 missionaries and local police in January to Mifila’s home village of Fiyawena to intervene and save the women's lives.

But last week about 10 men armed with homemade guns, axes and machetes, came from a nearby village and attacked two of the women and killed Mifila in front of her family, witnesses from the village told Lutz.

The only access to the village is by walking for several hours or getting a plane to a local landing strip, according to the missionary.

Police could not immediately be reached for comment.

- Reuters