Cult leader on the run in PNG

Madang, Papua New Guinea - A cargo cult leader known as "Black Jesus" is on the run in Papua New Guinea after police clashed with his warriors and arrested 30 "flower girls" allegedly exploited by him for sex.

Police and prison officers went into mountains in the northern province of Madang to flush out the cult this week.

They met strong resistance from cult warriors carrying guns, spears and bush knives, police said.

Eight officers would have been overrun by the warriors during a half-hour clash if another seven-man police unit had not arrived in time, one of the patrol leaders, Inspector Jim Namora, told PNG's Post-Courier newspaper.

The patrol fired on the cult followers who retreated after suffering casualties, police said.

Police went on to arrest 30 "flower girls", some as young as eight years old, allegedly used for sex by cult leader Steven Tari, revered by his followers as "Black Jesus".

Tari and other senior cult members escaped before police reached Tari's remote camp at Gal village.

Dorothy Gasan, known as the cult's "queen", was captured and remains in custody, police said.

Provincial Police Commander Nema Mondia told AAP the cult's leaders had obviously "gone a little bit too far".

Such cargo cult beliefs have been around for a long time.

Leaders tell their followers that all sorts of goods and money would "just fall out of the sky" and they would not have to work for it, he said.

Hospitals and clinics in and around Madang have been ordered to report anyone seeking treatment for gunshot wounds.

Police have set up roadblocks in the region.