ARMED GANG FREES PRISONERS IN PNG HIGHLANDS

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I gang member dead, 11 prisoners at large

By Zachery Per PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Dec. 14, 2009) - ARMED men invaded Bundaira jail outside Kainantu in Eastern Highlands province, Papua New Guinea and released 11 prisoners on Saturday.

[PIR editor’s note: Eastern Highlands is a highlands province of Papua New Guinea. The provincial capital is Goroka. The province covers an area of 11,200 square kilometers and has a population of 432,972.]

Eastern Highlands provincial police commander Chief Supt Augustine Wampe said yesterday that at about 11.15am on Saturday, armed men went into the prison posing as visitors.

They held up a female warder manning the gate and released 11 prisoners, five of them classified as high-risk prisoners.

Correctional Services officers who were alerted later fired warning shots, but the gang returned fire and slashed one of the warders with a bush knife.

The warder sustained a deep cut to his head.

The gang escaped along the Okapa road. A section of the Mt Hagen-based police Mobile Squad 07 deployed at Yonki was called in to pursue them.

The unit shot one of the gang members, who died instantly.

The others escaped, Chief Supt Wampe said.

The Bundaira jail has no fence around its perimeter, and Correctional officers are concerned that this places their lives at great risk from criminals operating in the area.

This is the second time the prison has been invaded by gunmen to free prisoners.

A similar incident happened in 1999.

Meanwhile, a disgruntled group of people in Okapa destroyed Okapa police station, chased public servants and attacked their local MP, Bonny Oveyara.

A police vehicle and other Government vehicles, including a five-door Toyota Land cruiser belonging to Mr. Oveyara, were smashed.

Fortunately, there were no casualties in the attack but the MP and those targeted last Friday’s attack are still in shock.

Chief Supt Wampe confirmed the incident, saying the disgruntled group was demanding that Mr. Oveyara meet with them to settle an outstanding demand.

He said the six policemen who went with the MP were outnumbered by the attackers.

"I immediately dispatched a police unit who are now camping in Okapa taking control of the situation.

"All the public servants fled in fear of their lives as Okapa police station and district office were destroyed," he said.

Chief Supt Wampe said he cannot send his men immediately to deal with the villagers because they were tied up with security at the vote counting for the Kandep by-election.

He said he would send them into Okapa once counting was completed.

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