The 85-year-old woman from Suau, Milne Bay Province, was inside a house when she was hit by a stray bullet and taken to the hospital at around 5.30pm yesterday.
According to police, the gunfight, which lasted for over 30 minutes, erupted after criminals ambushed a police patrol at Garuboi within the precincts of Alotau town.
A policeman in Alotau said the suspects were positioned at a vantage point atop a hill and they used 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 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 gun fire with the police.
Four homes deemed as ‘hiding places’ for these criminals were also burnt by police in yesterday’s operation. The police returned to the scene today 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.