26 Jan 2012

PNG PM says seized commander freed

11:04 pm on 26 January 2012

Papua New Guinea's prime minister Peter O'Neill says the commander of the defence force who was taken captive during a mutiny has been freed.

Mr O'Neill says Brigadier General Francis Agwi is no longer under house arrest.

Soldiers led by retired Colonel Yauru Sasa placed the commander under house arrest in a move said to have been backed by former prime minister Sir Michael Somare, the ABC reports.

Mr O'Neill says the soldiers involved in the mutiny have withdrawn and Colonel Sasa is being dealt with by authorities, although he did not clarify what this meant.

Colonel Sasa had demanded Sir Michael be reinstated.

Soldiers under his control stormed the Taurama barracks early on Thursday morning, taking the commanding officer captive.

They then moved to Murray Barracks and placed Commander Agwi under house arrest.

Colonel Safa is reported to be the former defence attache to Indonesia.

Sir Michael was ousted as prime minister and replaced by Mr O'Neill in August last year after his seat was declared vacant while he received medical treatment in Singapore.

Despite a Supreme Court ordering Sir Michael's reinstatement, Mr O'Neill remained the effective prime minister with the support of the public service, police, defence force and most MPs.

Commander Agwi recognised Mr O'Neill as the country's legitimate prime minister.