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Kiwi hiker caught in fatal PNG attack

MICHAEL FIELD AND EOIN BLACKWELL
Last updated 22:45 11/09/2013
Injured trekkers
THE NATIONAL

SAFE SITE: The trekkers, including the injured New Zealander with his head bandaged, were helped by authorities

Black Cat Track attack
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WAY OUT: One of the guides is placed in the helicopter to be airlifted to Lae from Wau after the attack on Morobe's famous Black Cat Track.

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A group of New Zealand and Australian hikers attacked by bandits in a remote part of Papua New Guinea suffered knife wounds and had to walk six hours to reach help. Two PNG porters were killed.

Daniel King, husband of trek leader Christie King, told AAP the group of eight Australians, one New Zealander and 15 local porters were attacked at about 3.30pm on Tuesday by bandits armed with knives and machetes, while walking on the Black Cat track between Wau and Salamaua in Morobe province in northern PNG.

AAP understands one of the porters was killed in his tent at the camp - indicating the attack was sudden.

PNG police spokesman Dominic Kakas said six men armed with guns, a spear and bush knives struck between 1pm and 2pm.

One gun was homemade while the other was a .303 factory-made rifle.

Kaka said there were no reports anyone was shot.

"Three of the porters suffered lacerations to their arms and eyes, one was wounded on both legs," he said.

One of the Australians had his left arm slashed, he said.

"They all had their passports stolen. One man was speared in the left leg. Another has a head laceration, cuts on left elbow and bruises and cut on his back."

PNG Tourism Promotion Authority spokeswoman Georgia Gregerson said the New Zealander had been injured but not seriously.

"The New Zealander is now safe," she said.

She had no details on the extent of his injuries, but a photo supplied by The National newspaper in Papua New Guinea showed him with a bandaged head.

''Everything's OK, in terms of the group,'' King said.

''A few of them have cuts and bruises and stitches. We have a  plan now to get them out this afternoon.''

''They were about six hours out. They were at their first camp when the incident happened, and they had to walk with injuries.''

After the attack the hikers decided to leave the porters and seek help, heading in the same direction  as their fleeing attackers. Helicopters were being sent to pick up the injured porters.

After medical treatment, they were due to fly out of Wau to Port Moresby on Wednesday night, said head of PNG Trekking Mark Hitchcock.

Gregerson said she understood the injured hikers were being taken to Salamaua which is a trail entry point and would later today be moved to Lae.

She said she expected they would leave the country tomorrow. The trek was organised by a major Port Moresby company, PNG Trekking Adventures. They declined to comment on the incident.

Trek leader Christie King, the only woman in the group, led some of the Australians through the bush to find assistance after the attack.

Wau is a three- to four-hour walk from where they were camped, at the Donkey Trail along the Black Cat Trek.

"Some of them did leave to get help, they were led out by the team leader," Kakas said.

He said PNG's Police Commissioner Tom Kulunga condemned the attack.

"All police resources are being utilised," he said.

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Local villagers were tracking the attackers now, he said, and about 20 police officers and the Airborne Unit had been sent to the area.

The injured tourists were to drive to Buolo village and on to Port Moresby.

Komunt said they were expected back in Port Moresby later on Wednesday.

The Black Cat Track runs between Wau and Salamaua in northern PNG.

It was the scene of bitter fighting between Australian and US troops and Japanese forces in 1943. It is regarded as one of the most arduous walks in PNG.

- Fairfax and AAP

- Fairfax Media

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