By Rebecca Kuku in Port Moresby
Prime Minister James Marape has urged armed captors to free the remaining four hostages which includes an Australian-based New Zealand professor, following the release of a local woman and three local guides.
“These are citizens of our country and a friend of our country. Let’s settle this the Melanesian way,” Marape said.
“We know who you are.”
Marape, who is in Fiji for the Pacific Islands Forum “unity” summit this week, said the full names and pictures of the 13 people involved in the kidnapping were with police.
“[You have] been identified. So release the [remaining] four hostages,” he said.
The armed men, reported to be from Hela, kidnapped the seven researchers and guides on Sunday for a cash ransom at Fogomaiyu village near Mt Bosavi on the border of Southern Highlands and Hela.
The PNG woman was released with the four local guides.
One guide stays with professor
But one guide chose to remain with the professor, who is a permanent resident of Australia and teaches at the University of Southern Queensland.
The seven included a female staff of the National Museum, a Woman Leader Network member, an anthropology graduate of the University of Papua New Guinea, who is doing field work with the professor, and four local guides.
Marape called on the kidnappers, who were known to authorities, to release the four remaining hostages.
Marape said that the hostages were well.
“We are working with locals in the area as intermediaries to negotiate the safe release of the four,” he said.
Second such incident
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister John Rosso said this was the second such incident to happen in the area.
“It is not an organised crime, but a group of opportunists, who are heavily involved in the guns and drugs trade in the region who are doing this. It was a chance encounter,” he said.
“The safety of the remaining four people still held as hostages remain paramount.
“We are negotiating for their safe release.”
Deputy Police Commissioner Dr Philip Mitna said police were talking to the armed men through intermediaries.
“We are treating the matter as serious,” he said.
Rebecca Kuku is a reporter for The National. Republished with permission.
Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz