Australian pilot, two passengers released from brief kidnap in Papua New Guinea

By Lewis Jackson

SYDNEY (Reuters) -An Australian helicopter pilot and two local workers were released unharmed in Papua New Guinea on Monday within hours of being kidnapped at gunpoint in the remote highlands, police said, following negotiations with security forces.

The three had landed at a remote telecoms site near Mount Sisa in the province of Hela when an armed group took them away, David Manning, the police commissioner of Papua New Guinea, said in a statement.

But they were released safe and unharmed after large numbers of security personnel responded and negotiated with the group through local leaders, he added in a subsequent statement, without further describing the leaders.

Security forces were tracking the perpetrators and police would use deadly force if they tried to resist arrest, Manning added.

"Our country has had enough of these domestic terrorists who are undermining the safety and security of our communities, and they have no place walking free," he said.

Police had previously been cleared to use lethal force against the kidnappers.

The kidnapping came almost a year to the day and in the same province where an Australian archaeologist and two Papua New Guinea researchers were taken and held for more than a week until a ransom was paid.

Australia's foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Michael Perry and Clarence Fernandez)