An Australian professor and three of his colleagues are believed to have been taken hostage in a remote area of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The ABC has reported that a group of armed men have taken the four researchers at gunpoint, and it is alleged that a ransom demand has been made for their release. The four were in the area to conduct a field study.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been contacted by The Epoch Times for comment. The Australian government has a policy of not paying ransoms or making concessions to groups who are regarded as terrorists, as it would contravene Australia’s anti-terrorism financing laws.
Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape has told reporters that the PNG government is currently having “running conversations” with the group that took the hostages. Christian missionaries who had been living in the area for a long period were acting as mediators with the kidnappers and had spoken to the Australian professor by satellite phone. Marape said that he is confident, optimistic, and prayerful that the hostages will be released.
This news of the hostage-taking comes less than two weeks after it was reported that a New Zealand pilot, Philip Mehrtens, was taken hostage by an armed separatist group, the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), in Indonesia’s Papua province. The group had demanded that New Zealand’s government enter into face-to-face negotiations with them for the release of their pilot. However, they had also said that Mehrtens would not be released until the Indonesian government recognizes Papuan sovereignty. A spokesperson for the group, Sebby Sambom, said on Feb. 15 that Mehrtens is safe.
ABC News reported that TPNPB wanted New Zealand to facilitate between the West Papuan separatists and Indonesia’s authorities while also involving the United Nations Security Council. Akouboo Amatus Douw, chairman of TPNPB’s diplomatic council, said the separatist group would formally send its demand to New Zealand and urged New Zealand to cease its assistance to Indonesia. Douw said that Mehrtens will not be freed until their demands were fulfilled.
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