Kidnappers have released a woman who was held for several days in a remote area of Papua New Guinea, and security forces are continuing to negotiate for the freedom of four other hostages, police said Thursday.
The woman, a Papua New Guinean citizen whose name has not been disclosed, was released to police on Wednesday, Deputy Police Commissioner Philip Mitna said in a statement.
Police confirmed on Monday that a kidnapping had occurred in the poor South Pacific island nation but did not say when it began.
A foreigner and three Papua New Guinea university students are still being held by several kidnappers near Fogoma’iu Village in the remote Highlands region, police said.
The foreigner is a New Zealand citizen who lives in Australia and works as an archaeologist at an Australian university, according to media reports. The New Zealand and Australian governments have declined to comment.
Police Commissioner David Manning said officers have been authorized to “use full force of the law to secure the people being held, and to immobilize and apprehend the criminals.”
“We are offering the abductors a way out. They can release their captives and they will be treated fairly through the criminal justice system,” Manning said. “But failure to comply and resisting arrest could cost these criminals their lives.”
The kidnappers have made a ransom demand, according to media reports. Kidnapping for ransom is an uncommon crime in Papua New Guinea, a tribal society of 9 million people who are mostly subsistence farmers.
Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape urged the kidnappers to release the remaining hostages.
“You have nowhere to hide. All of you and your names and your faces are being profiled as we speak,” Marape told the Australian Broadcasting Corp, adding that more than 13 of the kidnappers have already been identified.
The hostage who was released was a local person who was working with the kidnapped research team, ABC reported.