July 10 (UPI) -- More than 20 people including pregnant women and children have been killed in Papua New Guinea due to a recent outbreak of tribal violence in the Pacific island nation, authorities said.
At least 16 people were killed on Monday in Hela province's Karida village, the Hela Province Department of Health said on Facebook, adding that some of the bodies were "chopped into pieces" beyond recognition.
Hela provincial police Cmdr. Teddy Augwi said there have been at least 24 people killed in the region since Saturday when six people were ambushed near Peta village, Papua New Guinea's Post-Courier reported.
He said the relatives of the six people killed then sought revenge and with high-powered rifles shot dead at least 16 people on Monday, including children and two pregnant women.
"This is not a tribal fight where the opposing villages face each other on the field, this is a fight in guerrilla warfare, meaning they play hide-and-seek and ambush their enemies," Augwi said.
Prime Minister James Marape said it was "one of the saddest days of my life."
"In memory of the innocent who continue to die at the hands of gun-toting criminals, your time is up," said Marape on his Facebook page. "Before I had someone else to report to, now I have no one else to report to but the innocent you kill."
Marape blamed the violence on an inadequate police force of fewer than 60 officers for a province of 400,000 people.
The prime minister then warned those responsible that he is not afraid to employ the death penalty.
"[Those] who have been living off killing others, I'm coming for you," he said.