A group of hostages being held for ransom by armed criminals in a remote region of Papua New Guinea have all now been freed, the country’s Prime Minister James Marape said Sunday.
“We apologize to the families of those taken as hostages for ransom, it took us a while but the last three have been successfully returned through covert operations with no (ransom) paid,” Marape wrote in a Facebook post.
A group of four hostages, which included foreign citizens and local guides, had been captured by a group of heavily armed men described by national police on Monday as “opportunists”, but one of them – a woman – was freed on Wednesday.
In a tweet on Sunday, New Zealand’s foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta welcomed the release of the group, which included a New Zealander who is a professor at an Australian university.
PNG Police Commissioner David Manning had previously said the hostage-takers had spotted the group “by chance” and taken 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.
Papua New Guinea, a Pacific nation of more than 9 million people, shares an island with the restive Indonesian region of Papua.
In a separate incident 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.