Australian university professor taken hostage in Papua New Guinea highlands

The Australian man is an archaeologist who works for an Australian university. PHOTO: ST ILLUSTRATION

SYDNEY – An Australian university professor is among a group taken hostage in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, the country’s prime minister said on Monday.

Armed criminals had demanded cash in return for releasing the captives, who included more than one foreign citizen, police said.

The professor is an archaeologist who works for an Australian university and was on a field trip to Fogoma’iu village in the Mount Bosavi region, two sources with knowledge of the incident told Reuters. His companions – local researchers and a project manager – had also been taken hostage, they said.

Police said in a statement that the hostages were being held near Fogoma’iu at the border of Southern Highlands and Hela provinces.

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape told local reporters on Monday that the police and military are on standby, and the government is working with missionaries who are acting as mediators. 

“We want those criminals to release those who are held in captivity,” he said in comments broadcast on ABC Television. 

“There is no place to run, there is no place to hide,” Mr Marape added.

The professor has not been publicly identified because of the sensitivity of the situation.

A source in Papua New Guinea said the situation was in “a crucial moment” and they could not comment further. It is believed a ransom has been demanded.

Deputy Police Commissioner Philip Mitna said in a statement “a number of foreign citizens are among the group”, which included academics and local guides. The criminals had come from Komo in Hela.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not immediately respond to a request for comment. REUTERS

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