Three men in Papua New Guinea have been found with unlicensed firearms, ammunition, explosives and other illegal items after a raid was conducted in Western Highlands province last week.
The apprehension of the three men identified another seven men who were alleged to be part of a network of men who move the illegal items from Western Highlands into the upper Highlands provinces.
About 800 ammunition, firearms, explosives and other illegal items have been confiscated from the trio.
Deputy Commissioner of Police-Operations Dr Philip Mitna confirmed there was a security operation.
He further said that: “Illegal firearms and drug trade is an ongoing issue in the highlands.
Firearms and live ammunition are smuggled into many border provinces linked by the Okuk Highway.
“A security team in Hela had made surveillance on firearms and ammunition. They visited Hagen (travelling in from Tari) and engaged with Hagen Police, who organised raids and executed two search warrants on 30 July , 2023, and effected several arrests.”
According to information received by the Post Courier, there are regular ammunitions and firearms supply coming in from the Highlands Eastern End and are supplied to the Western End, which includes Hela, Enga and Southern Highlands by illegal dealers.
DCP Mitna said: “With the continued tribal fights in Hela and Enga Province and other criminal activities involving firearms, the intelligence had confirmed most of the ammunition was being bought from Jiwaka and Mt Hagen dealers.
So far, the number of persons held and detained has increased to 10, and we anticipate more arrests. Among those arrested included a prominent businessman and security firm owner in Mt Hagen, he added.
According to the findings and assessment by security personnel, WHP has built up to 80 percent of illegal ammunition and has been supplying other provinces. The team tracked persons of interest from Tari to Mt Hagen and sought assistance, whereby several search warrants were sought and executed by Police with support from the PNGDF Reconnaissance Unit.
The arrests of the 10 men comes as the operations was executed in two-week intervals and continued last month.
The arrest of a local man in Hides started an investigation into the proliferation and movement of firearms and ammunition within the Highlands region.
The man who was picked up in Hides was allegedly involved in the recent series of kidnappings and ransom and incidents in Mt Bosavi, Southern Highlands and parts of Western Province.
The arrest of the man in Hides and nine more in Mt Hagen led to the uncovering of a large stash of unlicensed firearms and varieties of unlicensed live ammunitions, including an explosive-hand grenade as well as several other illegal items in a home in Newtown in Mt Hagen.
According to reports, the intelligence gathered including the evidence at hand, it is strongly concluded and revealed that the main suspect apprehended in Mt Hagen is the main supplier and distributor of unlicensed weapons and ammunitions in the tribal fighting zones in the Highlands region as well as other parts of PNG.
On Tuesday 01 August, 2023, the main suspect was formally cautioned including his constitutional rights under section 42(2) was administered to him and formally charged with 10 counts under the newly Amended Firearms Act, 2022 and 2 counts under the Explosive Act (chapter 308) respectively.
The charges are:
– Two counts of unlawfully in possession of unlicensed Firearms under section 65 (c)(ii) of the Amendment Firearms Act, 2022.
– Eight counts of unlawfully in possession of unlicensed live ammunitions under the section 65A (a) of the Amendment Firearms Act, 2022.
– Two counts of unlawfully in possession of unlicensed explosive under the section 14(1) of the Explosive Act, Chapter 308.
The other nine men are still being interviewed and are being processed. Police investigations continue.