PNG machete attackers should 'face death penalty'

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Media caption,

The survivors from Australia and New Zealand recount what happened

Papua New Guinea's prime minister has called for attackers who ambushed a trekking group, killing two people, to face the death penalty.

The group of Australian and New Zealand hikers and their local porters were attacked by machete-wielding robbers on PNG's Black Cat Track on Tuesday.

Several members of the group were injured, and two local guides were hacked to death in the attack.

The Black Cat Track is known as one of the toughest hiking trails in PNG.

One of the survivors, Nick Bennett, told Australian media about the attack.

"I thought I'd been shot and what I realised after was that I had been clubbed with a rifle barrel and it had opened my head up," he said.

"I could just see one of the guys actually just attacking the porters with a bush knife."

Another trekker, Peter Stevens, told reporters that the tourists were forced to lie on the ground as the robbers stole their belongings.

"They then laid into us with bush knifes, hitting us with the flats of the knives... some people were cut," he said.

'Terrible thing'

PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said the attackers would face the death penalty.

"These are appalling crimes, and they attract the death penalty under laws passed by the national parliament," he said.

He added that the incident was an "obvious setback" to PNG's tourism industry.

No arrests have been made in relation to the attack, and the precise motive remains unclear.

Some reports suggest that local rivalries, or resentment at the beneficiaries of the trekking industry, were the cause.

In May, Papua New Guinea passed legislation expanding its use of the death penalty, following a number of high-profile and violent crimes.

Mr Bennett said the impact of the incident on the local industry was "a terrible, terrible thing".

"We're not the story to be honest, it's what's going to happen to those villagers... and those porters who have now basically been deprived of work, who've been horrifically injured," he said.

The Black Cat Track in northern PNG joins the towns of Wau and Salamaua. It was one of the sites of fighting between Australian and Japanese troops in WWII.

Australia has updated its travel advice, recommending that visitors avoid the Black Cat Track until the incident has been investigated.