An Australian archaeologist and several others have been kidnapped for ransom in Papua New Guinea, the country’s prime minister said Monday, warning the armed captors “there is no place to hide.”
Police and government officials said a group including academics and guides from Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea were taken at gunpoint in the country’s rugged highlands early on Sunday.
The captors issued a ransom demand of roughly US$1 million and a 24-hour deadline, which has since been rescinded and the cash demand has dropped substantially.
Prime Minister James Marape said this was the first time such a ransom has been demanded.
The government is “treating this very, very seriously, we don’t want it to be a precedent for the future”, he said.
Papua New Guinea’s highlands are a sprawling expanse of jungle-cloaked hills where the central government and security forces have little sway.
In recent years, the regions have seen an increase in tribal warfare and modern weapons.
Marape added his government would “not tolerate” such criminality and “everything possible” is being done to free the group.
“I just want to inform those who are engaged in this one, there is no place to run, there is no place to hide in our country,” he said.
Local missionaries are said to be in contact with the captors and are negotiating the group’s release.
Australia’s government refused to comment publicly.
Canberra has previously argued that publicity around kidnapping cases can heighten the risk to those detained.