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Papua New Guinea Police say net is closing in on kidnappers

Monday 19 June 2023 | Written by RNZ | Published in Papua New Guinea, Regional


Papua New Guinea Police say  net is closing in on kidnappers
PNG Prime Minister James Marape shared a photo on Facebook of two of the hostages, including Professor Bryce Barker, left, after their release. Photo: Supplied/Facebook/PM James Marape/23061853

Papua New Guinea’s Police Commissioner says they are identifying the suspects involved in kidnapping 17 girls earlier this month.

David Manning said they have also established that the suspects have been talking to various leaders - local and national - and will be investigating why this is the case.

A local said family members of the girls negotiated with the captors and were eventually able to secure their release.

In a statement, Manning said police and the PNG Defence Force are on the ground in the Mt Bosavi area of the Southern Highlands province and will remain "until the threat is eliminated".

Manning said it was only a matter of time before they are brought to account for their actions.

"As I have said in an early statement, there is no time limit to our investigation. We will continue until every last criminal and their associates are brought to justice. This new and emerging crime is a threat to our national security and safety and must be stopped from setting roots at all cost," he said.

Manning said the police have continued investigations since the kidnapping of Australian academic Bryce Barker and his PNG counterparts in February.

"We have now established that there are communication links between these criminals and various prominent district, provincial and national leaders," Manning said.

"We will be interested in questioning them as to how the leaders know these criminals and why they were communicating with them.

"We have also identified individuals aiding the fugitives responsible for abductions in Bosavi and they will be arrested and charged as well. Several people, including some local elected representatives, have already been identified and will be brought in for questioning and arrest.

"Kidnappers and their associates are domestic terrorists who ruin lives and cause communities to live in fear, especially in such isolated areas.

"Regardless of whether they held a weapon or tried to hinder law enforcement, domestic terrorists will be rounded up and face the consequences of their actions."

He said there is a high level of community support as local people have had enough.

Meanwhile, Manning said the kidnapping victims have been supported with medical needs, counselling and other assistance.