NZ pilot kidnapped in Indonesia ‘healthy,’ calls for halt to bombings
Jakarta, Apr 26 (EFE).- A New Zealand pilot kidnapped almost three months ago by Indonesian separatists said in a video released Wednesday that he is “healthy” and asked the government to stop its bombings in the region he is being held.
In the video recorded Monday and sent to journalists Wednesday by the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), Phillip Mehrtens claims to still be physically well since he was kidnapped on Feb. 7.
“As you can see, I’m still alive, I’m healthy, I’ve been eating well, drinking. I live with the people here, we travel together as required, we sit together, we rest together,” he says in the short video, in which he appears with two captors.
Mehrtens was abducted by fighters from the TPNPB, an armed wing of the Free Papua Movement after landing a Susi Air plane in Papua province’s remote Nduga regency. Five local passengers were released.
In an attempt to free Mehrtens, the Indonesian authorities have launched offensives in the region in recent days that, according to the rebels, have resulted in the deaths of 15 soldiers, however the army only acknowledges the deaths of five.
“Indonesia’s been dropping bombs in the area in the last week and please, there’s no need. It’s dangerous for me and everybody here. Thank you for your support,” Mehrtens concludes in the video.
In a statement sent to journalists on Wednesday, TPNPB spokesman Sebby Sambom said that Indonesia continues to bombard the region and stressed that the pilot’s release “must go through negotiations, not through military operations.”
“Indonesian President Joko Widodo must stop the Military Operation in Ndugama immediately, if [he does] not stop military operation then [it will] endanger the life of this New Zealand pilot,” he warned.
Rich in natural resources, Papua, in the east of the western half of the island of New Guinea, has been the scene of a low-intensity armed conflict between the central Indonesian state and secessionist movements since the region came under the control of Jakarta in 1969. EFE