24 Jul 2004

PNG police charge 35 people with piracy

8:50 am on 24 July 2004

Papua New Guinea police have charged 35 people with piracy.

The Australian Associated Press reports the charges relate to the alleged looting at gunpoint of a container ship in the Gulf of Papua.

A container ship, the MV Agutoi ran aground on sandbars near the Gulf province capital of Kerema, last week.

The southern region police commander, John Marru, says villagers from Kerema, armed with guns and knives, allegedly boarded the ship and threatened the captain and crew before stealing goods including food and supplies.

Mr Marru said a special police unit flew to the Gulf province in secret last weekend.

Officers then raided Kerema and surrounding villages before yesterday charging 35 people under the country's Piracy Act.

A police officer in Port Moresby says detectives kept the operation secret in order to catch the suspects as they tried to sell stolen goods in the Kerema markets.