PNG Police Say Christmas Jail Breakout ‘Well-Planned’

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More than 30 ‘dangerous’ inmates still on the run

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Jan. 1, 2014) – More than 30 prisoners remain on the run in Papua New Guinea's southern highlands, after a mass breakout during Christmas celebrations at the weekend.

At total of 42 prisoners escaped from the Buiebi jail just outside of Mendi late on the weekend, but six have since been recaptured.

The Southern Highlands Provincial Police Commissioner Chief Inspector Sibron Papoto told Pacific Beat it seems the breakout was well planned.

Mr Papoto says it is a routine that the officers take the prisoners out for church service and light refreshments during the Christmas period.

Just as the prisoners were being locked up, some of them tried to escape by getting into a fight with the officers in charge.

"They knocked off (a) particular lance corporal, lifted them up and pushed them towards the main gate," Mr Papoto said.

"As soon as that was going on, the acting commander... sensing one of his officers was held up by the prisoners and they use him as a human shield."

When the commander realised the prisoners were trying to escape, he tried to block the prisoners from escaping through the main gate.

"The commander rushed to the main gate and tried to lock the main gate but then the prisoners jumped over the fence," Mr Papoto said.

"By then, some already outside. And then they attacked him, they punched him, they removed his mobile phone, they removed the key out then open the main gate."

"The forty-two of them, they rushed out."

Mr Papoto says the officers did not sustain major injuries during the escape.

Depsite appeals to the public about more information about the prisoners, Mr Papoto says there has been no success.

But he warns that prisoners on the run are dangerous.

"During this time, we couldn't do much. We had problems with few logistics... but we are doing what we can," Mr Papoto said, adding that it's been challenging for police to search for the prisoners when there is more security than usual required during the festive season.

Officials at the Buiebi jail are getting help from Port Moresby and Mr Papoto hopes the police will recapture all the prisoners soon.

"There are enforcement from the islands region and probably from Port Moresby of correctional services officers. They are already on the ground... they are doing what they can," he said.

There have been many incidences of prisoners escaping from PNG jails and Mr Papoto says the jail has to tighten up its security services so the incident does not repeat itself.

"There should be some measures put in place by the correctional services management at the jail to ensure that this kind of thing does not happen and repeat itself," he said.

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