The National- Monday, February 7, 2011
FIVE women, including two students, were raped by armed criminals while a policeman, in pursuit of the gang, is missing in the jungles between Ambua and Beneiria in Southern Highlands.
The five women were travelling in a PMV along the notorious Ambua Highway when criminals struck at around 9am on Saturday.
The criminals took cash and other items belonging to the passengers before dragging the women into the bushes and raped them.
Following the attack, a policeman, who was part of a team dispatched to investigate the crime, disappeared in dense jungles between Ambua and Beneiria.
The missing policeman was named as Const Mathew Kami, in his early 30s, from East Sepik.
Kami was attached to the police Mobile Squad 10 based in Mendi and was in Tari for the LNG security operations.
Policemen who went to investigate the armed robbery and rape incident at Ambua said Kami was last seen walking along a track leading into the jungle at 10am on Saturday.
A police search party was dispatched into the jungles between Ambua and Beneiria early yesterday morning and commander of Operation Paijele Haminye, acting Chief Supt David Manning had requested the use of a chopper to assist in the search and rescue mission.
When his colleagues noticed his absence, they alerted senior officers in Tari, Komo and Hides 4, and a rescue party was dispatched to try and locate the missing policeman late on Saturday evening.
His colleague First Const Simon Kesoso said he made contact with Kami at 5pm on Saturday through his cellphone.
Kami said he was standing on a hilltop and, then, his phone went off.
Police combed through the jungle in search of their missing comrade throughout Saturday evening and again yesterday but Kami remained missing.
Police were appealing to people in that part of the Hela region to assist them in the search.
An eyewitness, who was travelling from Tari to Mendi, said many people were stripped naked and robbed.
Mike Elapa said three buses loaded with people, mostly students going back to school and also people going to Mendi and Hagen to buy store goods, were held up and robbed by the armed gang.
“I saw many people with cuts and bruises as the criminals manhandled them while women were dragged into the bushes, and everyone was naked,” he said.
Elapa said the driver of the vehicle he was travelling reacted quickly and reversed away from the criminals before turning around and headed back to Tari until police arrived to clear the area.
He said the Ambua Gap, which is referred to as ‘no-man’s land’ was becoming a concern for the travelling public.