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Aka says brother wants 4,400 for each hostage

By Patrick Levo PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Oct. 20, 2011) – In Papua New Guinea (PNG), hostages Tania Oakiva and Lydia Petrus are alive and well but missing their families after nearly three months in captivity.

In the clearest indication yet that they are well and in the bushes of Talasea, West New Britain Province, the hostages spoke with Desmond Aka, the brother of their captor Don Aka.

The fate of the three male scientists and their two boat men is grim as confirmed by other suspected pirates.

[PIR editor’s note: Lydia Petrus and Miss Tania Oakiva went missing with three fellow male research scientists in West New Britain waters between Bali Island and the Gloucester coast. The medical research team was based out of Goroka and was on their way to Kimbe, West New Britain, to conduct malaria research sponsored by the Global Fund, on a 23-foot fibreglass dinghy with a 60 horsepower engine.]

Desmond Aka, who was sentenced to two years in prison by the Kimbe district court on Monday for drugs cultivation, told police he visited his brother’s camp on October 4 where he met and spoke to the two women.

Aka told police his brother Don was holding the two women for ransom and is demanding relatives to pay 10,000 kina [US$4,400] each for the release of each women.

Aka told police: "I visited my brother’s camp and saw the two women. They are okay. They miss their families."

Aka reportedly pleaded with Don to release the two but was met with stubborn resistance and threats.

Police will continue to interview Desmond Aka in relation to the August 1 piracy and kidnapping of the five PNG Institute of Medical Research malaria scientists.

The police hunt for the drug and piracy suspect Don Aka continues with a police mobile unit from Tomaringa joined by local Kimbe detectives in Aka’s home island of Mulagani.

Provincial police commander Senior Inspector Thomas Reu confirmed that Desmond Aka had told police that both women are alive but held hostage by Don Aka and his bandits in the bushes up the Pua River on the Talasea Coast.

Mr Reu confirmed that the suspects captured so far are Desmond Aka, George "Maroga" Jeffrey aged 22, and Stanley "Stabby" Willy, 24, all of Mulagani.

Fourth suspect Raphael Mondo of Kapo Island surrendered to Kapo village peace officers on Monday and was brought into Kimbe where he was arrested and charged.

He is being questioned in relation to piracy and hijacking. Mondo, a young tall man, told this reporter he had nothing to do with Don Aka. He said: "I have not seen anyone, I don’t know about this piracy. I am fearful."

Asked if he knew where the women are, Mondo replied: "Mi no lukim ol. Mi no save."

Willie also denied any knowledge of the kidnapping.

He told this reporter: "Mi no wokim wanpela samting. Ino mi, ino mi."

All men are being held at separate lock-ups to avoid them contacting each other and forming alibis.

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