Children and pregnant women are among those murdered in a tribal massacre in Papua New Guinea’s Highlands area.
At least 24 people are confirmed to have died in a brutal flare-up of violence between rival tribes over several days in Hela province. Some reports put the death toll higher.
PM James Marape called the news “one of the saddest days of my life”, promising to track down the perpetrators.
It is one of the worst outbreaks of tribal violence in PNG for years.
“It’s a very sad story,” Philip Undialu, governor of Hela told news agency Reuters, explaining the killings were part of a conflict running for years.
“It was retaliation of a previous attack. Both attacks were made in an innocent community where people were not expecting it and all of us are in a state of shock.”
Authorities say the region has for years struggled with violence, at times driven by disputes over the distribution of land and resource wealth.
How did the killings unfold?
Details are still emerging from the remote central area, but the violence appears to have been a string of attacks and counter-attacks over several days.
Hela provincial administrator William Bando told AFP news agency that 24 people were dead and there could be more.
Local news agency EMTV reported at least two incidents in small villages in the Tari-Pori district.
On Sunday, seven people – four men and three women – were killed in Munima village. Then on Monday, 16 women and children were hacked to death in the village of Karida, EMTV said. Two of the women were pregnant.
According to the Post-Courier newspaper, the attacks took place on Saturday and Sunday with six people killed the first day and 16 – including two pregnant women – in a retaliatory attack the following day.
Pills Pimua Kolo from the Hela province department of health posted pictures on Facebook of what he said was the massacre in Karida village.
The pictures show a row of bodies wrapped in cloth and tied to long poles. He said some of them had been chopped into pieces and their body parts were hard to recognise.