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Three held for a week after abduction

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, June 5, 2009) – Two girls and a woman held captive for a week by criminals demanding K5 million in ransom were released yesterday after police cracked their network and arrested two of the suspects.

The three captives – the 12-year-old daughter of Nambawan Super managing director Leon Buskens, his sister-in-law and her two-year-old child – were dropped off by the suspects in the Sabama/Badili area where they were later picked up by police around 3.30pm. They had been held captive since Saturday.

PNG police, with technical assistance from the Australian Federal Police (AFP), were able to track the suspects by monitoring mobile phone usage and ATM transactions throughout the city.

NCD Metropolitan Supt Fred Yakasa said the suspects had carried out the abduction by posing as PNG Power employees and travelling in a vehicle that was earlier stolen from the power company.

They went to the Buskens residence and kidnapped the three sometime last Saturday afternoon.

After kidnapping the three, they telephoned Mr. Buskens and demanded K100, 000 [US$38, 500] up front, with K5 million [US$1.9 million] to be paid later.

Apparently, they wanted Buskens to withdraw money from the superfund and pay the ransom.

Buskens was out of town on official business when he was contacted by the kidnappers. According to police, the suspects told Buskens not to speak to police or the media, or the three hostages would be harmed.

Buskens approached the police for help. Early this week, both the police and Buskens asked the media not to report on the kidnapping while the three were still in the hands of the criminals, for fear of jeopardising their safety.

All media outlets cooperated with the request.

The police and Buskens then started negotiations with the kidnappers, which continued through the week.

Buskens reportedly told them that K100, 000 and K5 million were beyond him, and the figure was revised downwards to K50, 000 and then to K30,000, which was wired to a private account.

It wasn’t until yesterday that the police, who were on the trail of the kidnappers, took one of the suspects’ wives in for questioning, which rattled the criminals and eventually led to the safe release of the captives.

The captives were unharmed and apparently in good health despite their six-day ordeal.

Also during the day, police, who were closely monitoring transactions of the bank account that the ransom payment was wired to, were able to trace the criminals who were trying to withdraw the money at a club in Koki.

Acting swiftly, police were able to apprehend two of the suspects who are now remanded in the Boroko cells, with 95 percent of the money recovered and the account now frozen.

Supt Yakasa said police had a fair idea about the identities of the other suspects involved and were now looking for them.

He was happy with the outcome of the operation and commended the team involved.

"This sort of situation is threatening the security of this nation and we need to seriously look into doing something about it," Supt Yakasa said.

He said the kidnapping was to some extent related to last year’s kidnappings and the police fear that this could be a rising trend.

He called on all law making and enforcing institutions and citizens to be on guard.

"We could have done it ourselves only if we had the equipment the AFP used in its technical assistance in monitoring the situation.

"As the commander on the ground, I think it is a must that we have such basic equipment to aid us in tackling today’s sophisticated crimes," Supt Yakasa said.

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