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Indonesia. New Zealand pilot kidnapped by Papuan separatists

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Separatists in the Indonesian province of Papua have taken a New Zealand pilot hostage and threatened not to release him until the region’s independence is recognized. On Tuesday, they shared photos and a video of their demands. The abducted man appears to be in good health, Reuters reported.

New Zealander Philip Mehrtens, who was piloting an Indonesian airline Susi Air, was hijacked by militants from the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) last week after landing in the remote Ndudze region of Papua.

Reuters states that it cannot verify the authenticity of the photos, but a friend of Mehrtens, who chose to remain anonymous due to the nature of the case, confirmed that they show the abducted pilot.

Papuan separatists have kidnapped a New Zealand pilotReuters

They demand Papuan independence

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On Tuesday, photos and recordings with Mehrtens were made available by TPNPB spokesman Sebby Sambom. They show a dozen fighters armed with both firearms and bows, and a white man in a hiking hat and denim jacket.

The pilot, Reuters reported, appears to be in good health. There are no tied hands in the recordings. In one of the photos, he is clasping the militant’s hand, and in another, he is holding an object resembling a bow.

Papuan separatists have kidnapped a New Zealand pilotReuters

– The Papuan military, who took me prisoner to fight for Papua’s independence, calls on the Indonesian military to return home to Indonesia. If not, I will remain in captivity for the rest of my life, says Mehrtens in the recording.

Indonesian Security Minister Mahfud MD said on Monday that Mehrtens would be released “by persuasion, because his safety is essential”, but he could not rule out “another solution”. “Taking civilians hostage, for whatever reason, is unacceptable,” he added.

New Zealand officials confirmed they had knowledge of the recordings but declined to comment further.

Papuan separatists have kidnapped a New Zealand pilotReuters

Indonesia’s easternmost provinces have been wracked by independence strife since the resource-rich region lost its power in a controversial vote UN from 1969 was brought under Indonesian control. The conflict has escalated in recent years.

Main photo source: Reuters

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