By JUNIOR UKAHA
THE 90 escapees who were "forced to escape under the gun-barrel" from the Bui-Iebi prison in Mendi, Southern Highlands, by an armed gang in the early hours of Wednesday morning were believed to be heading in two separate directions, Correctional Services Commissioner Richard Sikani said, The National reports.
He said one group, allegedly led by Paul Rambo, a local from upper Mendi and the inmate who stole a police vehicle, was heading towards upper Mendi and further towards Tari, Koroba, Margarima and Kutubu in the Hela region.
He said the other group was led by Peter Hena from Pangia, who was jailed for murder, and was heading towards the eastern end of Mendi, aiming for Kagua, Pangia and Mt Hagen.
Sikani said the group led by Rambo were suspected to be keeping all the arms and ammunition that had been stolen from the CS armoury in Bui-Iebi.
A source from Bui-Iebi jail said the CS jail commander, Felix Namane, and PPC Teddy Tei went on-air on radio at 7pm on Wednesday to appeal to the people of Mendi and Southern Highlands not to harbour these criminals and to report them to police.
Supt Tei gave a seven-day ultimatum to the gang to return all the stolen weapons and for the escapees to voluntarily surrender to police and CS officers.
Sikani said no escapees had been recaptured except the one who was picked up by his men and police near Kiburu Lodge Junction in Mendi.
He said no arms had been recovered thus far and he appealed to the community leaders to help recover the weapons.
He said around 60 men were engaged in the recapture operation, with 15 men from the local CS command and 40 officers from the Mendi riot police.
A source said Highway Patrol 17 of Kaupena, in Ialibu, had been notified of the escape and were monitoring the highway along Western Highlands-Southern Highlands border at Kaupena.
The source said the escapees were dangerous criminals and included men who were serving time for robbery and rape.
One of them was jailed for attempting to set fire to a company's helicopter.