News Sources: PNG Authorities, Reuters, Australian Guardian. A police operation is underway in Papua New Guinea to rescue an Australian university professor and three researchers taken hostage on Sunday night and held in the country’s remote highlands.
Papua New Guinea’s Police Commissioner, David Manning has issued a statement confirming armed criminals have demanded cash in return for releasing the hostages who included one foreign citizen and three Papua New Guinea research students.
Commissioner Manning described the situation as “delicate” and the Guardian reports that they have elected not to name the professor because of the sensitivity of the situation.
“Our specialised security force personnel will use whatever means necessary against the criminals, up to and including the use of lethal force, in order to provide for the safety and security of the people being held,” Manning said.
The professor is an archaeologist from an Australian university. He was on a field trip to the remote village of Fogoma’iu in the Mount Bosavi region. His companions are a local researchers and a project manager from the capital Port Moresby.
Police said the hostages were being held near Fogoma’iu at the boundary of Southern Highlands and Hela provinces.
Prime Minister James Marape told local reporters on Monday morning that police and the military were on stand-by as the government worked with missionaries who were acting as mediators.
The Prime Minister had earlier confirmed ransom had been demanded of the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments.
“They have indicated ransom. We do not encourage ransom, but we’re treating this very diligently and carefully because life is at risk and life is at stake.”
“I want to inform the families of those taken hostage we’ve been at work,” he told reporters in Port Moresby.
I’m confident, I’m optimistic, I’m prayerful that we get them out,’ Prime Minister Marape added.
An earlier police statement had said there were “a number of foreign citizens” among the hostage group, which included academics and local guides. However Police Commissioner Manning’s statement said there was one foreign national among the four hostages.
The criminals, described by the Police Commissioner as “opportunists” had come from Komo in Hela, spotted the university group by chance and took them into the bush, Manning said.
He adds the abductors were being offered “a way out” and would face Court if they released the hostages, “but failure to comply and resisting arrest could cost these criminals their lives”.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs has not yet made a statement.