WWII soldiers' remains for sale in PNG - report

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SYDNEY, Oct 5 (Reuters) Selling the remains of fallen US, Australian and Japanese World War Two soldiers has become a lucrative business in Papua New Guinea, with a complete human skeleton fetching 20,000 dollars, local media reported today.

The South Pacific archipelago's Post-Courier newspaper said the skeleton was sold last month, and that plastic bags filled with bones were being sold for the equivalent of between 2 and 24 dollars.

Sanananda and surrounding areas saw fierce battles and heavy death tolls between Japanese and allied US and Australian forces between November 1942 and January 1943 and was regarded as a turning point in eventually repelling the Japanese forces from what was then New Guinea.

Albert Awai, chief of Sanananda village, said government authorities were failing to detect the sale of the remains which had become a big industry, the newspaper reported in its online edition.

The recovered remains of thousands of Australian troops are interred at cemeteries in Papua New Guinea. But the remains of hundreds of other Australians killed during the fighting were never recovered.

REUTERS JK RN1546

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