Inspector Jim Namora, one of the leaders of the joint police/CIS operation code-named Black Rose aimed at halting the uprising, said his men were met with strong resistance by warriors of the cult movement led by Steven Tari who is revered by his followers as Black Jesus.
Mr Namora said eight officers under his command were met by warriors of the cult armed with spears, bushknives, guns and other weapons. We were walking up a mountain towards the camp at about 7pm when we were attacked.
We had walked five hours to get to the camp, Mr Namora said. He said they would have been overrun if the other unit, with seven officers, had not arrived. He said the clash lasted about 30 minutes before the cult warriors retreated. Police and CIS officers used firearms to repel the attack.
A brief on the two-day operation said the cult followers suffered heavy casualties during the fight, although this could not be confirmed. There were no casualties reported on the police/CIS side.
The operation resulted in the arrest of 30 young girls, some as young as eight years old who were known as flower girls for the cult king Tari. The girls were reportedly used as sex objects by the cult leader.
The flower girls would be charged for taking part in an illegal activity. Also apprehended was Dorothy Gasan, who is said to be the queen. She is being held at the Jomba Police cell. Gasan, along with Tari, had absconded bail following their earlier arrests.
The Madang District Court issued warrants of arrest for them both.
The report on the operation said Tari and other senior members of the cult escaped before the police/CIS officers moved into Gal village, the location of the camp.
Hospital and clinics in and around Madang have been notified to report to police any person that seeks treatment for gunshot wounds.
Meanwhile, Operation Black Rose has been extended to the Ramu Highway, where roadblocks have been mounted and checks on motorists being made.
This follows information that cult leader Tari planned to leave his Gal camp and move to Morobe, probably to set up somewhere in the Markham Valley. Tari, according to police, is of mixed Manus and Siassi Island parentage.
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