At least 15 dead in Papua New Guinea rioting and looting

At least 15 people have been killed in Papua New Guinea, as Prime Minister James Marape appealed for calm after police walked out over pay, and protests descended into rioting and looting.

Eight people died in the capital Port Moresby while seven more were killed in Lae in the country’s north, the Australian Broadcasting Corp reported, citing an update from police.

Television footage showed thousands in the streets of Port Moresby on Wednesday with many carrying what appeared to be looted goods. Black smoke billowed over the city, and a crowd torched a police car outside the prime minister’s office.

The Chinese embassy said Chinese-owned businesses had been targeted and an unspecified number of its citizens had been hurt.

Marape told a news conference on Thursday that police reinforcements had been flown into Port Moresby, and the situation in the capital had calmed.

The Post Courier newspaper said soldiers had been deployed to help restore law and order and that military vehicles were on the streets in a “show of strength”.

“Police were not at work yesterday in the city, and people resorted to lawlessness, not all people, but in certain segments of our city,” Marape said.

Police went on strike on Wednesday morning after discovering a reduction in their pay packets.

“There was beating, smashing, looting and burning, and some commercial facilities including many Chinese shops were robbed,” the embassy said in a statement.

The United States embassy said while police had returned to work, tensions remained high.

“The relative calm can change at a moment’s notice,” it said in a statement, adding it had received reports of violence in several other areas of the country.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the country’s high commission was monitoring the situation, and Canberra had not received any requests for help from Papua New Guinea, which it regularly supports in policing and security.

“We continue to urge calm at this difficult time. We haven’t had any requests from the PNG government at this time but … our friends in Papua New Guinea, we have a great relationship with them.”

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