An Australian professor and his colleagues have been taken hostage by an armed group in Papua New Guinea.
PNG’s Prime Minister, James Marape, told reporters on Monday his government has been in contact with the kidnappers, with missionaries living in the remote forested area acting as intermediaries.
“I want to inform the families of those taken hostage that we have been at work and contact has been made with people in the bush,” he said.
“We’ve got police and military on standby to assist, but in the first instance we want those criminals to release those who are held in captivity.
“We have been keeping this under close wraps because of the sensitivity and the need for us to get our friends [who were] captured, get them alive and safe.
“This morning there was positive news that they are alive and villagers on ground who are not involved in these criminal activities, these villagers have also been assisting in negotiations to get them out.
“So I’m confident, I’m optimistic, I’m prayerful that we get them out.”
It’s understood the kidnapped group consists of the Australian professor, a program co-ordinator and two graduates of the University of PNG.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has been contacted for comment.