By Andrew Alphonse

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Dec. 29) - Heavily-armed men opened fire on police and grabbed two officers hostage at Waralo village outside Tari, Southern Highlands, Saturday morning.

Tari police station commander Inspector Julius Tasion was released unharmed several hours later but at press time, Constable Gordon Magoga remained a hostage.

Sources told The National that police and some Tari town officials were still negotiating with the gunmen who are believed to have stolen two high-powered rifles from Enopi Barracks in September.

A crack police unit had been flown in to assault the gunmen’s stronghold in the rugged mountains of Waralo if necessary, the sources said.

Mobile units from Port Moresby and Mt Hagen were also on the standby. 

Provincial police commander Supt Simon Nigi cut short his Christmas assignment and flew from Moro into Tari on hearing the news.

Tasion and Magoga were part of a joint operation to recover the rifles when they were ambushed early Saturday morning.

Albert Beli, the Mobile Squad 7 commander who led the operation, said no one was injured in the shootout.

Tari mayor George Tagobe and two youth leaders, accompanied by this reporter, went into the gunmen’s stronghold to negotiate for Tasion’s release.

After intense talks, the officer was freed at about 7 p.m. on Saturday.

It is believed that the gunmen, led by a David, have demanded money in exchange for the constable, who is a member of the mobile squad.

Nigi thanked the mayor and the two youth leaders, Mr Robert Turumbu and Mr Alo Kaiyabe for helping secure Tasion’s release.

The incident prompted many residents of Tari to gather outside the police station. They only left when they saw Tasion appear and were told them to go home.

December 29, 2003

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