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Woman Accused Of Witchcraft Is Axed To Death In Papua New Guinea

| by Michael Allen
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A woman identified only as "Mifila" was reportedly axed to death after being accused of using witchcraft to create a measles outbreak in the remote village of Fiyawena, Papua New Guinea.

American Lutheran missionary Anton Lutz told authorities Mifila was one of four ladies, along with 13 of their family members, accused of using the dark arts to cause measles deaths in the jungle community in November 2014, noted NBC News.

Lutz claims he led missionaries and police to Fiyawena to save the women's lives in January.

Lutz told Australian Broadcasting Corporation News this week:

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"What we're hearing is that on Monday about 10 men came and axed her while she was with her family. Her family was helpless to do anything and she died. So far we've heard that her family is not seeking to retaliate against this group that came and killed her. They are hoping that the police will be able to apprehend them and seek justice another way."

Killings based on sorcery were banned in Papua New Guinea in 2013, but Human Rights Watch noted in a 2015 report that the country "is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman, with an estimated 70 percent of women experiencing rape or assault in their lifetime."

Human Rights Watch added, "Reports of violent mobs attacking individuals accused of 'sorcery,' the victims mostly women and girls, continue to be reported. The instigators of such attacks rarely face justice, with few witnesses coming forward."

Lutz explained to ABC News why some of the villagers practice this barbarism:

"It's related to the beliefs about this spiritual being that lives inside of people ... it's a very specific ancestral belief that this group has about all sickness and death being the result of these spirit beings that live inside of mostly women and their children. So as their children grow up they will also be at threat of being murdered as well."

Lutz told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, "Police have promised to move in and take action. The villagers are still scared that the men will come back. It's still a tense situation for the community. It’s deep jungle out there ... This is a big piece of jungle for people to hide in."

The village is reportedly so remote that it can only be found by walking several hours or by plane.

Kate Schuetze, Amnesty International’s Pacific Researcher, said in a statement on May 26:"The vicious killing of Misila highlights the Papua New Guinean government’s persistent failure to address the wave of attacks against those, mainly women, accused of 'sorcery.' The government must act immediately to ensure that the perpetrators of such attacks are brought to justice."

Sources: NBC News, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Amnesty International, ABC News, Human Rights Watch
Image Credit: Nightstallion/Wikimedia Commons