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Some of the images circulated on social media such as the PNG Development Forum and carried by TV Wan News. Image: Harley Geita/PNG Development Blog

Pacific Media Centre News Desk

A group of United States security contractors engaged by Papua New Guinea’s police chief to give firearms training have been stood down from their duties, ABC’s Pacific Beat reports.

Only a day earlier, Commissioner Gary Baki had said the men — from the US firm Laurence Aviation and Security — were in Port Moresby investigating what type of training PNG police needed ahead of next year’s APEC summit.

But Baki revealed the men – described by former prime minister Sir Mekere Morauta as “mercenaries” — as also having conducted police operations, something that may be illegal according to PNG’s Constitution, reported Pacific Beat.

As a result, there had been calls for the police commissioner to resign and be investigated.

National Broadcasting Corporation News reported that 15 contracted men would be deported.

ABC Pacific Beat’s Joy Kisselpar reported that Commissioner Baki said five men currently in PNG with Laurence Aviation had been stood down until the National Security Advisory Committee considered his submission.


Intense speculation
The identity and purpose of the armed security men have been the subject of intense speculation and conflicting reports since social media reports and images of their presence last weekend, reports Pacific Media Watch.

In February 1997, the Sandline affair involving foreign mercenaries threw Papua New Guinea into turmoil.

The PNG military arrested 44 mercenaries brought into the country from Australia, Britain and South Africa to be engaged in the Bougainville war by the Sir Julius Chan government.

Chan was forced to resign the following month. The crisis was named after Sandline International, a British-based private security contractor.