22 May 2002

More negotiations for hostages in Papua New Guinea Highlands

1:53 pm on 22 May 2002

Negotiations are continuing in an attempt to secure the release of three hostages in Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands province.

The provincial police commander, Nema Mondia, has gone to Tari town to check out the situation after reports that more than 300 heavily armed youths are demanding more than 130-thousand US dollars for their release.

Local papers say former army commander, Ted Diro says the government should call in the defence force to clamp down on anarchy in the province.

But, the police commissioner, Joseph Kupo, has ruled that out, saying police are equipped to deal with the situation.

Mr Kupo says communications have been established with local leaders from Koroba who are believed to be holding the hostages.

The demands for money is reportedly to compensate for the death of two tribesmen in a weekend clash near Tari.

The fight, which followed a police attempt to arrest an armed young man, also left a policeman dead and the youths then seized two other constables and a candidate, Benias Perry.

Villagers have blockaded parts of the main highway.