Papua New Guinea police have arrested three men and seized a stockpile of unlicensed firearms, ammunition, explosives and other illegal items in a raid in Western Highlands province last week.
The arrests identified a further seven men who were alleged to be part of a blackmarket network who move the illegal items from Western Highlands into the upper Highlands provinces. They were also arrested.
About 800 rounds of ammunition, firearms, explosives and other illegal items were confiscated from the trio, including a Winchester shotgun, shotgun belts, sniper scopes, a Glock pistol and a hand grenade.
Deputy Commissioner of Police-Operations Dr Philip Mitna confirmed that a security operation had been carried out.
“Illegal firearms and drug trade is an ongoing issue in the highlands,” he said.
Firearms and live ammunition are smuggled into many border provinces linked by the Okuk Highway.
“A security team in Hela had made surveillance on firearms and ammunition. They visited Hagen (travelling in from Tari) and engaged with Hagen police, who organised raids and executed two search warrants on July 30, 2023, and effected several arrests,” Deputy Commissioner Mitna said.
Regular arms supply
According to information received by the Post-Courier newspaper, there is a regular ammunition and firearms supply arriving from illegal dealers in the Highlands eastern end and this is supplied to the western end, which includes Hela, Enga and Southern Highlands.
“With the continued tribal fights in Hela and Enga provinces and other criminal activities involving firearms, the intelligence had confirmed most of the ammunition was being bought from Jiwaka and Mt Hagen dealers,” Deputy Commissioner Mitna said.
“So far, the number of people being detained has increased to 10, and we anticipate more arrests. Among those arrested included a prominent businessman and security firm owner in Mt Hagen.”
According to the findings and assessment by security personnel, the Western Highlands share has built up to 80 percent of illegal ammunition and has been supplying other provinces.
The team tracked persons of interest from Tari to Mt Hagen and sought assistance, leading to several search warrants being executed by police with support from the PNG Defence Force Reconnaissance Unit.
The arrests of the 10 men came as the operations were executed in two-week intervals and continued last month.
The arrest of a local man in Hides started an investigation into the proliferation and movement of firearms and ammunition within the Highlands region.
Allegedly involved in kidnappings
The man who was picked up in Hides was allegedly involved in the recent series of kidnappings and ransom and incidents in Mt Bosavi, Southern Highlands, and parts of Western Province.
The arrest of the man in Hides and nine more in Mt Hagen led to the uncovering of a large stash of unlicensed firearms and varieties of live ammunition, including a hand grenade as well as several other illegal items at a home in Newtown, Mt Hagen.
According to reports, the intelligence gathered led to the arrest of the main suspect who was apprehended in Mt Hagen. He is alleged to be the main supplier and distributor of unlicensed weapons and ammunition in the tribal fighting zones in the Highlands region as well as other parts of PNG.
On Tuesday, August 1, 2023, the main suspect was formally cautioned and formally charged with 10 counts under the newly Amended Firearms Act 2022 and two counts under the Explosive Act (chapter 308) respectively.
The charges are:
- Two counts of unlawfully in possession of unlicensed Firearms under section 65 (c)(ii) of the Amendment Firearms Act, 2022;
- Eight counts of unlawfully in possession of unlicensed live ammunitions under the section 65A (a) of the Amendment Firearms Act, 2022; and
- Two counts of unlawfully in possession of unlicensed explosive under the section 14(1) of the Explosive Act, Chapter 308.
The other nine men were still being interviewed and were being processed.
Police investigations were continuing.
Republished with permission.
Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz