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Academics taken hostage in PNG's Hela, Police Operations underway to rescue them

The Royal Papua New Guinea (RPNGC) is responding to confirmed reports of people being detained by armed criminals in the vicinity of Fogoma’iu Village, Hela/Southern Highlands provinces.

Police Commissioner David Manning said he has been updated by Deputy Commissioner and Chief of Police Operations, Dr Philip Mitna, on negotiations to secure the release of the people that have been taken captive, with police authorised to use all necessary force to free those being held.

Commissioner Manning said, “I have been briefed on the situation in which one foreign national and three PNG university students are being held by criminals in the border region of Southern Highlands, Hela and Western Provinces.

“This is a delicate situation and police, in coordination with other security elements, are engaged in an operation to enable the safe release of the people involved. This is a remote area and air support has been approved.”

Commissioner Manning said police are authorised to use the full force of the law to secure the people being held, and to immobilise and apprehend the criminals.

“Security personnel are operating within their set rules of engagement in dealing with these criminals, with the safety of the innocent being their top priority.

“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,” Mr Manning said.

Commissioner Manning said it is understood the criminals sighted the men being held by chance and took them into the bush.

“These are opportunists that have obviously not thought this situation through before they acted, and have been asking for cash to be paid.

“However, we are offering the abductors a way out. They can release their captives and they will be treated fairly through the criminal justice system, but failure to comply and resisting arrest could cost these criminals their lives.

“Further information will be released by the RPNGC as and when further details can be made available by Deputy Commissioner Mitna as the Chief of Police Operations.

“DC Mitna has also confirmed that contact is being maintained with the relevant diplomatic representatives as this matter is resolved,” Mr Manning said.

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