21 May 2002

Negotiations continue in PNG hostage crisis

4:12 pm on 21 May 2002

Police in Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands say negotiations are continuing in an attempt to free three hostages held by villagers since Friday night.

Nema Mondia, the provincial police commander, says two constables and an election candidate, Benias Perry, are still being held by armed captors about an hour from the town of Tari.

One constable was shot dead in a clash between the police and villagers, reportedly over the arrest of a man in possession of firearms.

Commander Mondia says the villagers have said they don't want police involved in the negotiations.

"We are working through the village chiefs, village leaders to go in there to rescue those being held hostage . We're taking that approach so at the moment the people on the ground are negotiating the release of the hostages."

Former Southern Highlands governor, Anderson Agiru says he has visited the three men and negotiated their release from a steel cage.

Mr Agiru says the three are now in the home of chief Yawas Komiabu from the Kanimu tribe of South Koroba.

Commander Mondia says the number one concern is the safe return of the hostages.