An Australian archaeologist and several others were abducted in Papua New Guinea when their captors ransomed, the Pacific country’s prime minister announced on Monday.
According to police and government officials, a group of academics and leaders were kidnapped in a rugged mountainous region of the country on Sunday morning.
The kidnappers initially demanded a ransom of one million dollars be paid within 24 hours before downgrading their request.
According to Prime Minister James Marape, this is the first time such a ransom has been demanded. His government “takes this matter very, very seriously, we don’t want it to set a precedent,” he said.
“Everything possible” is being done to free the hostages and the government will not “tolerate” such criminal acts, Marape said.
Australia declined to comment publicly on the case. Canberra has said in the past that publicity about kidnapping can put abductees at risk.
The highlands of Papua New Guinea form a vast expanse of jungle-clad hills over which the central government and security forces have little control, and where tribal strife and arms trafficking have increased in recent years.