Stern Warning to Papua New Guinea Kidnappers as One Hostage Released

Stern Warning to Papua New Guinea Kidnappers as One Hostage Released
Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister James Marape speaks at the UN General Assembly 76th session General Debate in UN General Assembly Hall at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, New York, on Sept. 24, 2021. (Peter Foley/eutersPool via Reuters)
Papua New Guinea's prime minister has issued a stern warning to kidnappers to release their remaining hostages after one was freed.

Armed men took four people hostage, including a New Zealand national who has been a long-time Australian resident, and are demanding a ransom from the PNG and Australian governments.

James Marape urged the gang to set the remaining hostages free.

"You have no place to hide - all of you, your names, and your face, are being profiled as we speak," Marape said on Thursday.

"We have over 13 names and pictures of all of you in the mountains."

The four researchers, including the Australian professor, had been working in the Southern Highlands area.

Local police believe the crime was opportunistic.

Papua New Guinea police remain locked in negotiations with the criminals through missionaries acting as intermediaries.

Friend of Hostages Details Heartbreak

A friend of one of the hostages taken at gunpoint in Papua New Guinea has described their heartbreak and anguish at the situation.

Posting a message of support on social media, a friend of one of the hostages said their "heart bleeds not know how my beautiful and gentle [friend] and her colleagues are doing in the middle of the jungles".

"In the midst of this dark and ugly situation, we are very appreciative of the support of our local and national leaders and authorities working through this situation," they wrote.

Friends and colleagues also expressed sorrow and anger at the situation in social media comments, and feared "jungle pirates" were getting bolder and more confident.

Police's Deals With the Kidnappers

Police Commissioner David Manning says all options remain on the table to secure the hostages' release, with their safety being the top priority.

"Our specialised security force personnel will use whatever means necessary against the criminals, up to and including the use of lethal force, in order to provide for the safety and security of the people being held," Manning said in a statement on Tuesday morning.

The police commissioner said he believed the hostages were taken by chance by the armed men who took them into the bush and demanded a ransom.

"However, we are offering the abductors a way out. They can release their captives and they will be treated fairly through the criminal justice system," Manning said.

"But failure to comply and resisting arrest could cost these criminals their lives."

ANU associate professor Sinclair Dinnen said reports suggested the kidnapping was likely opportunistic and there wasn't any evidence pointing to an uptick in hostage-taking in PNG.

"There have been incidents, but it's still fairly unusual," he told AAP.

Dinnen said if the captors were motivated by financial gain, then Westerners made better targets because of their wealth compared to locals.

He says that international media coverage also puts pressure on the government to resolve the situation quickly.

Australia has a no-ransom policy and opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham said it's not in the nation's interest to be handing over ransoms unnecessarily.

"We need to be working hand in glove with the government of Papua New Guinea, with their law enforcement authorities to try to ensure the swift and safe release of these individuals," he told Sky News on Tuesday.

"Sometimes that means they will have to work quietly behind the scenes to try to secure the best outcome."