Papua New Guinea: 'Witch' Burned Alive By Mob

Papua New Guinea: 'Witch' Burned Alive By Mob

A young mother was stripped, tortured with an iron rod and then burned alive on a pile of tyres after being accused of being a witch in Papua New Guinea.

Hundreds of bystanders, including many children, looked on as Kepari Leniata, 20, was doused in gasoline and set alight. Some took photographs.

Grisly pictures were published on the front pages of the country's biggest circulating newspapers, The National and Post-Courier.

Prime minister Peter O'Neill, police chiefs and diplomats condemned the killing - by a mob of up to 50 - as barbaric and vowed to punish the culprits.

Kepari, who had an eight-month-old baby, had been accused of sorcery by relatives of a six-year-old boy who died in hospital the day before.

She was tortured and set alight by a mob in the Western Highlands provincial capital of Mount Hagen, national police spokesman Dominic Kakas said.

"The incident happened in broad daylight in front of hundreds of eyewitnesses and yet we haven't picked up any suspects yet," Mr Kakas said.

Mr Kakas said onlookers were shocked by the brutality but were powerless to stop the mob.

Police officers were also present but were outnumbered and could not save the woman, he said. No arrests have yet been made.

Mr O'Neill said: "What has been reported is very barbaric and inhuman. No one commits such a despicable act in the society that all of us, including Kepari, belong to.

"Barbaric killings ... are becoming all too common in certain parts of the country.

"It is reprehensible that women, the old and the weak in our society, should be targeted for alleged sorcery or wrongdoing that they actually have nothing to do with."

Police Commissioner Tom Kulunga described the slaying as "shocking and devilish."

In rural Papua New Guinea, witchcraft is often blamed for unexplained misfortunes.

Sorcery has traditionally been countered by sorcery but responses to allegations of witchcraft have become increasingly violent in recent years.

In other sorcery-related killings, police arrested 29 people in July last year accused of being part of a cannibal cult in Papua New Guinea's jungle interior.

They were charged with the murders of seven suspected witch doctors.

Police alleged they ate their victims' brains raw and made soup from their penises.

By eating witch doctors' organs the cult members believed they would attain supernatural powers.

Murder is punishable by death in Papua New Guinea, a poor tribal nation of seven million people, although no one has been hanged since independence in 1975.