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Philip Mehrtens: Papua Separatists Release Video With Captured New Zealand Pilot

Papua rebels in Indonesia have released images and video footage of Philip Mehrtens, a New Zealand pilot who they captured and took hostage a week ago. The group laid out their demands for his release.

The TPNPB released several images of the captured New Zealand pilot.
The TPNPB released several images of the captured New Zealand pilot.

Philip Mehrtens landed his plane at Paro Airport in the remote highlands of the Nduga region in Papua last week when he was overrun by rebels. The region is at the heart of a decades-long war for independence.

Soldiers from the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), the insurgent group of the Free Papua Organisation, took him hostage.

The fighters released a video showing Mr Mehrtens surrounded by groups of armed men, some with assault rifles and others with bows and arrows. One of the kidnappers could be seen raising the "Morning Star" flag - a symbol of Papuan independence.

In the video, the captive pilot could be seen reading what appeared to be a prepared statement, he said: "The Papuan military that has taken me captive to fight for Papuan independence, they ask for the Indonesian military to go home to Indonesia and if not, I will remain captive for my life."

The group is demanding independence for Papua in exchange for Mr Mehrtens.

A spokesman for the TPNPB, Sebby Sambom, said the pilot was being well looked after, in good health, and was only being held as collateral in a political dispute.

The Video Released By The TPNPB.

Papua is the third-largest island country in the world and is a resource-rich region. It was previously a Dutch colony, but in 1969, it was controversially brought under Indonesian control.

For years the region has seen low-level military conflicts for independence but this has escalated intensely since 2018, with pro-independence fighters carrying out deadly attacks.

Last week, members of the TPNPB said Mr Mehrtens was being taken further into the jungle, however, they promised he would be treated "humanely" and not be brought to harm.

Philip Mehrtens, 37, from Christchurch, was taken hostage when he landed his small passenger plane belonging to Indonesia's Susi Air in Nduga along with five passengers.

Shortly after the plane landed, the group stormed the plane and kidnapped him with the intention of using him as a bargaining tool. The other passengers were allowed to leave.

The head of foreign affairs for the Free Papua Movement's Diplomatic Council, Akouboo Amatus Douw, wrote a letter to the New Zealand government, expressing their demands.

He demanded New Zealand end its military ties with Indonesia, as well as requested the UN to force Indonesia to withdraw from Papua.

He added: "We also respect this family, how they're feeling. We say sorry but the family needs to understand about the suffering of West Papuan people... more than 60 years."

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