News Release: 26 February 2024

Operational Statement by the Commissioner of Police, David Manning:

A police operation is current underway in Hela Province with the pilot and technicians taken captive at a remote telecommunications site.

The pilot and passengers were taken at gunpoint by an issue motivated group while the helicopter was undertaking a scheduled stop in the vicinity of Mt Sisa, Tari, this afternoon. It is understood the issue motivation group is acting in connection with a compensation claim, and demands are being communication by the group.

All indications are that the three captives remain unhurt even though they are being held captive. These are the pilot who is an Australian citizen, and two Papa New Guinean sub-contractors.

Negotiations with the assailants are currently underway and police are closing in on the area. The helicopter remains on the ground at the telecommunications site.

I have made it clear to police personnel on the ground that they are clear to use up to lethal force against the kidnappers fail to comply with police directions.

This is not the first time we have dealt with this type of criminal in the area, and in the past the kidnappers have been killed, and if that is what it takes to bring this situation to a successful conclusion and free the captives, so be it.

We have learned a lot from previous situations of a similar nature, and landowners, leaders and village auxiliary police from the local area are working together with police command to resolve the situation.

Police and joint security force operations are ongoing, with assistance in aviation support being provided by private sector.

As this is an evolving security operation, public comment will be limited to what is needed to be known at the time. Once the situation has been resolved additional information will be released or as is required.