How Violent Riots Engulfed Papua New Guinea’s Capital

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Bullets flew. Stores and warehouses burned. At the edge of the prime minister’s compound, hundreds of protesters tugged at the gates and set a guard booth on fire. Inside, on the 10th floor of the beige building that housed the office of the country’s leader, he was facing calls to respond forcefully, perhaps even ask the former colonial ruler for help.

“We are not calling in the Australians,” Prime Minister James Marape of Papua New Guinea told a reporter visiting him in his office. “We can handle this ourselves.”

Last week’s deadly unrest caught officials unaware and left Mr. Marape grappling with a fast-moving crisis. But discontent had been simmering for months in one of the poorest countries in the world. Papua New Guinea has a very large youth population, but few jobs to offer its young people, making economic hardship even more severe.

So when the pay of hundreds of civil servants and police officers was docked — by what the government described as a computer glitch — they walked off their jobs on Jan. 10. Within hours, Port Moresby, the capital, was rocked by a level of violence it had not seen in decades. No official death toll was released, but at least 22 are believed to have died in the unrest, according to reports in the Australian news media.

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How Violent Riots Engulfed Papua New Guinea’s Capital

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