|OLD MATES: Bainimarama and Somare in 2008.|
A senior source in the PNG defence force says a group of between 12 and 20 soldiers overpowered guards at the Taurama barracks around 3:00am this morning.
They took the commanding officer captive, then moved to Murray Barracks and placed the head of the defence force, Commander Francis Agwi, under house arrest.
The source says the former defence attaché to Indonesia, a Colonel Safa, has now declared himself commander.
At this stage it is not clear if the incident is related to the conflict between Peter O'Neill and Sir Michael Somare over the country's prime ministership, or if it is the work of disgruntled soldiers.
When the conflict erupted last month, Commander Agwi recognised Mr O'Neill as the country's legitimate prime minister.
This morning the Reuters news agency reported that the prime minister's office said it was unable to confirm the reports that the defence chief had been seized.
The Department of Foreign Affairs is warning Australians in Port Moresby to avoid travelling in the city this morning.
Sir Michael was ousted as prime minister and replaced by Mr O'Neill in August last year after his seat was declared vacant while he received medical treatment in Singapore.
In December, the Supreme Court ordered his reinstatement as prime minister and as an MP.
But despite that order, Mr O'Neill remained the effective prime minister with the support of the public service, police, defence force and most MPs.
Last week there were rowdy scenes in the parliament when Sir Michael walked in brandishing the court order and demanding his reinstatement.
He was warned by Mr O'Neill that he could be arrested if he shows up again.
First posted January 26, 2012 09:16:32