8 'witches' murdered over sorcery incidents in Papua New Guinea

News media reports in Port Moresby say at least eight people have been murdered in horrific sorcery-related incidents in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the last week.

Six women and a man were tortured and the women burnt to death in the Southern Highlands. Two elderly women have also been beheaded on the island of Bougainville, Fairfax News reports.

Sorcery-related murders are soaring in PNG especially after a February incident in which a woman was burnt to death in front of hundreds of people at Mt. Hagen.

Many people photographed her death and pictures were published in newspapers. The PNG daily newspaper National says reports have reached the capital of six women and a man being tortured and burnt as Easter sacrifices in Merep village in Nipa district.

It quoted Komape Lap, 54, who said he fought with their torturers and escaped. He named the five of the six women as Sarah Henry, Koalis Kongop, Pisim Komape, Papim Komape, and Ipopi Pep, wife of a village court chairman, and her daughter.

The group had their hands tied, were stripped naked, forced to sit down on hot roofing iron over a fire. In a separate incident last Thursday in South Bougainville, two elderly women were beheaded on suspicion of practicing sorcery.

The PNG Post Courier said police had confirmed the incident describing the killing as "barbaric and senseless". Police who were at the scene watched helplessly as they were outnumbered by the angry villagers who were armed with five high-powered firearms, knives and axes.

Radio Australia reported Wednesday that about 1,000 people have marched on the streets of Buka, near Bougainville, to protest against the murders.

A New Zealand born Catholic priest, Philip Gibbs, has been actively involved in trying to halt sorcery deaths. Based in Mt. Hagen, Gibbs, 65, said it was hard to work out what to say to congregations which included people who would have taken part in burning alleged witches.