Police in Papua New Guinea opened fire on a student demonstration at a university campus and on the public outside the capital's hospital on Wednesday (Jun 8), officials said, wounding more than a dozen people and killing as many as four.
The island nation has been increasingly gripped by political unrest in recent weeks amid calls for Prime Minister Peter O'Neill to resign over corruption allegations.
A Port Moresby General Hospital admissions official said clashes had erupted between police and members of the public after several wounded students were brought to the hospital for treatment.
"Now there is a very big clash with the public and with the police just outside the Port Moresby General Hospital," the hospital official told Reuters by telephone from the admissions department. "There is also shooting going on, open gunfire."
A major aid agency, which declined to be named as its report was preliminary, said it had information from the university clinic that at least 15 students were wounded, with four killed.
Video on social media appeared to show students fleeing amid clouds of tear gas and the sound of gunfire. Pictures showed at least one man being carried with a serious stomach wound.
Port Moresby General Hospital said 10 students had been admitted. "They are in a difficult situation," the admissions officer told Reuters.
Papua New Guinea, formerly administered by its near-neighbor Australia, struggles with endemic violence and poverty. The Australian government warns of "high levels of serious crime" on its travel advice website and refers to a "general atmosphere of lawlessness".
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called for calm and said she was seeking further information.
"I know students have been shot but we are still trying to determine whether there have been deaths, how many injured," Bishop told reporters.
Thousands of students at the University of Papua New Guinea in the capital of Port Moresby have been protesting and boycotting classes for weeks amid growing political unrest.
The governor of Oro Province Gary Juffa, a critic of the O'Neill government, said on Twitter that he had spoken directly with students at the protest.
"Informed that several were shot," Juffa said, adding that the incident started with an argument between a metropolitan police superintendent and a student.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation quoted a student, Gerald Peni, saying police fired shots directly into the crowd when students would not let them arrest the president of the student council.
Papua New Guinea's opposition made a fourth unsuccessful attempt this week to unseat O'Neill's government via a no confidence bid, gaining some support from members of the leader's own party.