Armed criminals in gun battle with police
· One elderly women shot dead
· Two hospitalised
· One infant tear gased
· 17 homes razed
· 27 families traumatized and homeless
· Former judge condemns lawlessness and inaction by authorities
Photo Caption: A house burning at Alotau’s Kitava compound.
By CYRIL GARE
An 85-year-old woman is dead while two girls were hospitalised after been hit by stray bullets from a gunfight between police and armed criminals in Alotau on Thursday.
The elderly woman was identified as Rhoda Dick of Suau, Milne Bay Province whom police said was inside a house when she was hit. She was taken to the hospital at around 5.30 pm on Thursday but later died.
Seventeen houses were also torched on Thursday night at the Kitava compound leaving 27 families traumatised and homeless as Alotau police continue their hunt for the criminals and information on their whereabouts.
“Tasks force burnt down houses at Kitava compound. They shot out and killed one old woman. Two wounded girls are at the hospital and have 50-50 chance of recovering,”an eyewitness said.
According to police, the Kitava compound was a safe haven for dangerous criminals and at the time of the raid eyewitnesses said police were searching for criminals who had earlier robbed a Chinese restaurant in town and escaped through the settlement.
Residents at the Kitava Compound were forced out of their homes, questioned and then their homes set on fire.
One resident who didn’t want to be named told EMTV journalist Scott Waide that women and children who were in their homes were told to get out.
“We were surrounded by armed task force members, firing everywhere. They brought us together and questioned us if we knew who these criminals were.
“They fired tear gas. Children were crying and we ran towards town. Later they burnt the houses, ransacked my house.”
NBC Milne Bay reported that an infant was hospitalised after suffering from the effects of the tear gas fired by police.
In a statement on Friday, Chief Superintendent Dominic Kakas – media director of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) media unit in Port Moresby said the gunfight which lasted for over 30 minutes erupted after criminals ambushed a police patrol at Garuboi within the precincts of Alotau town.
Mr Kakas said the suspects were positioned at a vantage point atop a hill and were using high powered weapons to attack the policemen.
“Four NCD-based policemen now on operational deployment in Alotau were travelling in a car to investigate a reported car theft when they were ambushed by the gunmen.
“The four policemen were members of Port Moresby–based mobile squad 2, now deployed in Alotau to quell escalating crime in the province.
“It is believed, this same gang led by notorious criminal and prison escapee Tommy Maiva Baker was responsible for robbing a supermarket in 2016 during which a policeman who attempted to repel them was gunned down in cold blood.
“This same gang is also suspected of robbing employees of the Alotau Enterprise, in which a female employee was kidnapped and killed when she was thrown out of a moving vehicle along the East Cape highway in November last year.
“In yesterday’s (Thursday) gunfight, a policeman was grazed by a pellet in the forehead and their patrol car, a Toyota Land Cruiser wagon was riddled with bullets and the windscreen shattered.
“Police reinforcements were quickly dispatched to the location but the gangsters refused to decamp and continued to swap gunfire with the police.
“Four homes deemed as ‘hiding places’ for these criminals were also burnt by police in yesterday’s (Thursday) operation. The police returned to the scene today (Friday) and recovered a stolen Toyota Land Cruiser 10 seater but no arrests were made.
“The situation in Alotau is reportedly quiet but still tense as police continue to search for the gunmen,” Mr Kakas said.
Alotau resident and former judge and University of PNG law lecturer, Brian Brunton has since called on the Police Commissioner to remove the Provincial Police Commander. He has also called for the Governor, Sir Luke Cretin, to resign.
“There is absolutely no leadership here,” Mr Brunton said. “There are serious piracy concerns in the area where the Justice Minister comes from. Nothing is being done about it.”