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Police, locals exchange gunfire in PNG

Independence along the Highlands Highway turned nasty as Enga police and locals exchanged gunfire in Tomba near the Enga-Western Highlands border. 
The gunfight on Monday occurred after locals dug a drain across the highway, felled several trees and dragged wrecks onto the road, blocking a two kilometre stretch of the road.
The roadblock was set up five weeks after a young man in the area was killed by a truck owned by an Engan man. 
Several attempts by the victim’s relatives and tribesmen to claim compensation from the vehicle owner and the Enga Provincial Government fell on deaf ears. 
The frustrated tribesmen blocked the road in an attempt to get the attention of the driver and the Enga Provincial Government to pay the compensation demand of K200,000, 100 pigs, 50 goats and 10 cows. Two trucks owned by Engan construction firms were taken three weeks ago and were still with the local tribes. 
Enga police came to the scene and tried to clear the road on Monday but were prevented by angry locals. A dispute arose which resulted in the exchange of gunfire and destruction of a police vehicle. 
A police unit from Mt Hagen went to the scene late on Monday night and fired shots into the nearby villages. A young man, alleged to have been sleeping in his house, received a bullet wound to his hand. 
Yesterday, both Wabag and Mt Hagen police went to the scene around midday and cleared the road. 
Western Highlands Provincial Police Commander Martin Lakari said the road was a public facility and his men were going up to clear it with force. 
“Nobody should disturb the normal travelling public by blocking the road. Our boys have gone there to clear it under any circumstances,” Mr Lakari said. 
Mt Hagen police arrested a suspect over the killing and he was released on bail. 
According to the locals, the suspect now claimed he was not the driver of the vehicle, jeopardising any chances of compensation. 
Locals living along the highway have used the road as a political football in an attempt to get the attention of authorities. 
Last week, relatives of late Kundiawa Gembogl MP Peter Waieng blocked part of the Chimbu section of the highway, frustrated at the investigation into his killing. 
The Chimbu people said they would create more chaos on the highway if the investigation did not reveal those behind his killing.
The National
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