Papua New Guinea women murdered over witch claims

Two elderly women accused of practising witchcraft in Papua New Guinea were tortured and murdered by a group of men who dragged their bodies to a riverbank and burnt them, police said.

Police are hunting the offenders following Monday’s killings near the banks of the Bumbu River in the port city of Lae, regional police chief Giossi Labi said.

He described the actions of the killers from one of the city’s squatter settlements as “animalistic and inhuman”.

“This is a city and one would think people would be more civilised,” he told PNG’s Post-Courier newspaper.

The killers would be charged with first degree murder, he said.

The women, from PNG’s Eastern Highlands province, were accused of using sorcery to cause the death of a young man, community leader Nelson Zatura said.

The women were confronted by male relatives of the dead man and bashed with metal bars, he said.

“They were bound with ropes and dragged to the river. There the mob piled old car tyres on the bodies, splashed kerosene over them and set them alight,” Mr Zatura said.


Witchcraft, or Wicca, is a form of neo-Paganism. It is officially recognized as a religion by the U.S. government.

This is a diverse movement that knows no central authority. Practitioners do not all have the same views, beliefs and practices.

While all witches are pagans, not all pagans are witches. Likewise, while all Wiccans are witches, not all witches are Wiccans.

Note: The Witchcraft news tracker includes news items about a wide variety of diverse movements reported in the media as ‘witchcraft.’

Residents said they watched in horror as the bodies burned on the riverbank.

Murders of people accused of using sorcery to kill others are common in PNG, where traditional beliefs still hold sway in many regions.

Tribal fights also are an ongoing problem, especially in PNG’s Highlands provinces where feuds can last for decades.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday March 1, 2007.
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