Police in Papua New Guinea have launched a rescue mission after a group of foreign citizens and local guides were taken hostage by armed criminals in a remote region of the country, police said in a statement Monday.
Among those being held for ransom is an Australian academic, CNN affiliates Nine News and Seven News reported, citing Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape.
Police said negotiations are ongoing to secure the hostages’ release and they would use “all necessary force” to free them. The police statement said the group is being held at Fogoma’iu village in the Southern Highlands province, but did not say how many hostages were taken.
PNG Police Commissioner David Manning said the criminals saw the group “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,” Manning said, adding that authorities 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,” he said.
Manning added that contact is being maintained with “relevant diplomatic representatives” until the case is resolved.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has not publicly commented on the matter.
Papua New Guinea, a Pacific nation of more than 9 million people, shares an island with the restive Indonesian region of Papua.
Earlier this month, a New Zealand pilot was taken hostage by separatist fighters in Papua. Identified by local police as Philip Mehrtens, the pilot was captured after landing a commercial Susi Air charter flight at Paro Airport in the remote highlands of the Nduga regency.
The group previously demanded that all incoming flights to Paro Airport be stopped and said the pilot would not be released until the Indonesian government acknowledged Papuan independence.