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By Rebecca Kuku in Port Moresby

Prime Minister James Marape has commended Papua New Guinea’s police, defence force and the local community for their quick action in the release of an Australian pilot and two local workers who were kidnapped in the Highlands yesterday.

The pilot of Hevilift and two locals were at Hela’s Mt Sisa on routine work at a Digicel tower yesterday when they were kidnapped by an armed group in the area.

The group demanded a ransom to be paid.

However, due to quick action by the police, defence and locals in the area, the three were released safely a few hours after their kidnapping.

Marape, also the Tari-Pori MP in Hela, said lawlessness had “destroyed” the country.

“This country does not have any place for lawbreakers. You can hide and run now but you cannot hide forever,” he said.

“The more you hide and run, you will put yourself and your family at risk just like others who are in prison or dead because of their crimes.”

Special force ‘armed to teeth’
Marape said PNG would not tolerate lawbreakers.

“The special police force unit we are building will be armed to the teeth to deal with any crime anywhere, any place,” he said.

“Just as we did in the first kidnapping and this second attempt, we will not tolerate such crimes in our country.”

Police Commissioner David Manning said in a statement the Australian pilot of a Hevilift helicopter and two Papua New Guinean subcontractors were released without harm following “a rapid deployment of security force elements”.

Manning said security forces were mobilised and deployed in the area in large numbers through yesterday afternoon, and through local leaders the abductors had been warned that lethal force would be employed in order to free the captives.

He said the helicopter had since been flown to Hides with the pilot and sub-contractors on board.

Manning said security forces had entered the “direct apprehension” phase of the operation in which the abductors were being tracked so they could face justice.

“If these criminals resist or show any hostility towards police, other security personnel or any member of the public, their fates will be sealed,” he said.

‘Enough of domestic terrorists’
“Our country has had enough of these domestic terrorists who are undermining the safety and security of our communities, and they have no place walking free.

“These criminals will be caught or they will be killed in the process,” Manning said.

The pilot and technicians had been taken captive at a remote site in the vicinity of Mt Sisa, Tari.

It is understood the issue motivated the group was acting in connection with a compensation claim, and demands were being communicated by the group.

“I congratulate security forces personnel who worked together with local leaders and axillary police to bring this situation to a successful and swift conclusion,” Manning added.

Rebecca Kuku is a journalist with The National. Republished with permission from The National and PNG Post-Courier (front page screenshot).

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