Nightmare over for final 3 PNG freed hostages – police hunt their captors

Police Commissioner David Manning (right) escorts the the three last hostages to be released by the gunmen
Police Commissioner David Manning (right) escorts the the three last hostages to be released by the gunmen, including Australian-resident New Zealand archaeologist Professor Bryce Barker (walking behind Manning). Image: NBC News

By Miriam Zarriga in Port Moresby

The look on the faces of their families said it all, as they cried awaiting anxiously for their loved ones who made their way from the aircraft into the airport terminal at the capital Port Moresby.

For the families of the last three Papua New Guinea hostage crisis captives, the nightmare of being held prisoner for an entire week had ended.

The relief was evident across the nation as pictures of two of the three hostages went viral online as they were being airlifted out of Moro in the Southern Highlands province.

The trio named by the Office of the Prime Minister are Professor Bryce Barker, Jemina Haro and Teppsy Beni.

From preliminary reports, all were unharmed.

The online photo from Prime Minister James Marape's Facebook post that went viral
The online photo from Prime Minister James Marape’s Facebook post that went viral yesterday . . . Professor Bryce Barker and another hostage. Image: PM James Marape FB

According to police sources, the trio had been moved several times during the week-long ordeal with the trio and the armed men finally surrounded at Sebese village near Mount Bosavi in the Southern Highlands.

A thankful son and daughter of one of the two women released on Saturday evening shed tears of joy as they waited for the return of their mum.

Hunt continues for 21
For the perpetrators, the hunt continues for all 21-armed men who held eight people hostage before releasing all eight over a week-long crisis culminating in yesterday when the final three were released.

Security personnel, however, will remain in Bosavi for the next few months as they hunt for the men who are alleged to have been the main players in the kidnap and ransom demand.

Police Commissioner David Manning said that the trio were in “good spirits” as he arrived back into Port Moresby.

The Post-Courier's front page today 270223
The Post-Courier’s front page today reporting the release of the hostages. Image: PNG Post-Courier screenshot APR

Commissioner Manning confirmed that security personnel were still in Southern Highlands, saying “we still have unfinished business and we hope to resolve that within a limited time frame”.

He also stated that a “component that required to be paid” was paid.

Prime Minister James Marape said that money was paid — but not “to the tune of K3.5 million” (NZ$1.6 million).

“Criminal enterprise has no longevity, there will not be any negotiations from here on out, you either come out or we will come for you,” Marape said.

Foot bandaged, but happy
One of the two women had one of her feet bandaged, but both women looked to be happy to be back in Port Moresby after their six-day ordeal in the jungles of Bosavi.

Professor Barker, who Marape named, was the hostage from New Zealand, but living in Australia, and has had a long standing relationship with Papua New Guinea and in particular with Gulf province and the Mount Bosavi area.

His release was welcomed by New Zealand High Commissioner Philip Taula who thanked the PNG government and the security personnel for the repatriation of the professor out of Bosavi.

Professor Barker and the two women were quickly transported to Moro where they all underwent medical check before being airlifted out of Moro.

They arrived in Port Moresby at 4.40pm yesterday where they were embraced by their children and were quickly whisked out of the APEC Terminal.

Family members screamed with joy as one of the two women waved at them before they were driven out.

Outside the terminal, there was heavy police presence with Prime Minister Marape saying there was no place in PNG for such armed criminals.

“Police firepower was more powerful and such activities has no place in the country,” he said.

“These people were there to assist the government and the people.”

Miriam Zarriga is a PNG Post-Courier reporter. Republished with permission.

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