Report and picture by ANDREW ALPHONSE in TARI
ABOUT 300 heavily-armed warriors attempted to ambush policemen from the Tari-based Mobile Squad 09 unit in the Southern Highlands on Saturday morning.
Their attempt backfired when police retaliated by engaging in a gun battle that lasted for an hour.
Fortunately, no-one was injured in the live-action gun battle which was witnessed by this reporter who travelled with the MS09 unit.
The incident happened a mere 100m away from Kobalu Forward Base Camp for the multi-billion kina PNG LNG project.
The Kobalu camp would be the supply centre for the early works and construction of the LNG project.
The road from Tari leads to Hides gas fields at Nogoli, the nearby Angore gas field and the proposed Komo township.
LNG project operator ExxonMobil suspended all its operations in the country as of 8am last Saturday, blaming increased lawlessness at the project sites in the Southern Highlands and the recent killings at Portion 152 at the proposed LNG processing plant sites at Porebada village outside Port Moresby.
The Kobalu incident happened at about 8am when two sections of the MS09 unit were dispatched on a routine patrol to Hides after police received tip-offs of armed hold-ups by gangs along the highway.
Nearing the Kobalu camp, they were fired upon by the gang at a roadblock.
The gang had been robbing passengers from Hides and Komo to Tari that morning.
The MS09 members retaliated and exchanged fire with the gang.
The gang fled and left behind two home-made guns and two live bullets.
Police chased the gang and burnt down five huts used by the gang as their hide-outs.