Conflicts & War

Indonesia says safety paramount after rebels take New Zealand pilot hostage

Jakarta, Feb 10 (EFE).- The Indonesian government Friday said it wanted to ensure the safety of the New Zealand pilot allegedly taken hostage by rebel fighters in the Papua region.

Foreign Office spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah told reporters it was communicating with the New Zealand government to rescue the Susi Air pilot kidnapped on Tuesday.

However, the spokesperson did not divulge details.

“What we want to emphasize is the importance of civilians being safe. That’s what we want to make sure of. And that’s why we will continue to work on excellent coordination with New Zealand,” Faizasyah said.

On Wednesday, the New Zealand government confirmed the kidnapping of pilot Philip Mark Mehrtens.

The Kiwi government said diplomats were working for his release.

The authorities limited sharing of the information to ensure hostage safety.

A Papuan separatist group told EFE Tuesday that it was behind the kidnapping.

The abduction occurred after the pilot landed his Susi Air flight at a remote airport in the Nduga district in Papua.

The province is in the Indonesian part of New Guinea island, while the eastern part belongs to Papua New Guinea.

A statement from the Free Papua Movement, the diplomatic arm of the TPNPB, said Thursday the kidnapping was to “draw international attention to the suffering and war in West Papua.”

The group said the five local passengers on the plane were released.

The statement included several demands for the release of the pilot.

Among them, it calls on New Zealand and other governments to stop providing weapons and military training to Indonesia.

The group urged New Zealand to take the conflict to the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court for a probe into the alleged Indonesian abuses in West Papua.

The separatists, considered criminals by Indonesia, indicated that it was the first kidnapping after the Mapenduma incident in 1996, when they abducted 26 World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) members, including four British and two Dutch, in the same area.

Guerrillas freed some hostages then, and others escaped after an armed confrontation with Indonesian soldiers that ended with the death of eight rebels, two hostages, and five soldiers in a helicopter crash.

Rich in natural resources and divided into six provinces, the “Indonesian Papua” – called “West Papua” by rebels – has seen a pro-freedom low-intensity armed conflict since the region came under the control of Jakarta in 1969. EFE


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