By Christina Persico, RNZ Pacific bulletin editor
Papua New Guinea’s police commissioner David Manning says a man allegedly involved in the kidnapping of 17 girls earlier this year has been arrested.
Commissioner Manning said the man was wanted in connection with a series of criminal activities within the Mt Bosavi area bordering Hela, Southern Highlands, and Western provinces.
“Among the alleged crimes committed by the individual are the armed robbery of K100,000 [NZ$46,000] in cash, the killing of a Chinese national, and multiple cases of rape at the Kamusi logging camp and surrounding villages in the Delta Fly region since 2019,” the commissioner said.
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“Recently, the arrested man was also allegedly involved in the kidnapping of 17 girls in the Mt Bosavi area.”
Manning said the police and PNG Defence Force officers, acting on intelligence reports from the community, tracked down the man at the Komon Market in Tari, Hela province.
“He was arrested, and a homemade pistol and 5.56 ammunition confiscated,” he said
The commissioner said the arrest would bring a sense of relief to the affected communities, as the investigation continues.
“At the same time, we are sending a strong message to the criminals and those who aid, abet and benefit from them, that they will be caught and dealt with, sooner or later by whatever force is deemed necessary.”
Breakthrough in election incident
Police have also arrested the main suspect in the shooting of a helicopter hired by police during the 2022 National General Election.
This man is the main suspect in the killings and the burning of Kompiam Station and has been charged with five counts of wilful murder and one count of arson.
Manning said the investigation into the various crimes carried out in Kompiam during the 2022 National General Election continues.
“New evidence has come to light of the involvement of senior provincial and national leaders in Kompiam during the election in 2022,” he said.
“Our investigation continues, but the information we have uncovered thus far is concerning.
“It is a sorry state of affairs when the government is working to end violence and we find that leaders are encouraging these crimes to be committed.”
The police chief said following the recent killings in Wapenamanda, two additional mobile squads had been deployed into the area to assist the Enga Provincial Police Command to restore law and order.
“A fight in the Kandep has already left 22 killed, and other fighting in Laiagam has resulted in the killing of six people and 20 in Wapenamanda.
“We are facing serious law and order situation in the province and engaging security personnel and applying strategies to stop those fights from escalating.
“This includes active involvement of provincial and national leaders from the province to engage and take responsibility.”
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.