Crime & Justice

Papuan separatists threaten kidnapped NZ pilot in new video

(Update 1: Adds detail throughout, minor edits, alters lede, headline)

Jakarta, Feb 14 (EFE).- The Free Papua Movement, a separatist group in eastern Indonesia, on Tuesday released images and footage showing the New Zealand pilot they had kidnapped last week as well as a rebel fighter threatening to kill him if Jakarta does not recognize the region’s independence.

The images taken between February 7-9 show separatist rebels burning the light aircraft that had been flown by Philip Mark Mehrtens before he was kidnapped on Feb 7 after landing in the Highland Papua province, situated in the western, Indonesian part of the island of New Guinea.

It also showed the pilot surrounded by armed guerilla fighters from the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), a group linked to the Free Papua Movement, an umbrella of several separatist militias.

In the video, the New Zealander said that he could remain captive or be killed if the rebel demands for Indonesian forces to leave the territory and recognize their independence claims go unheeded.

One of the rebel fighters in the video warned that the pilot would be shot if the Indonesian army was sent in.

On Monday, the Free Papua Movement’s spokesperson Sebby Sambrom, said the pilot was in good health.

Indonesian authorities – which have designated the organization a terrorist group – and New Zealand have called for the pilot’s release.

In a statement last week, the Free Papua Movement said that the kidnapping was aimed at showcasing the Papuans’ suffering under the Indonesian authorities to the international community.

Its demands include a halt to the supply of arms to Indonesia by New Zealand and other governments, and that Wellington raise the Papua conflict in the United Nations Security Council.

The group also urged the International Criminal Court to launch an investigation into the alleged abuses committed by Indonesia in West Papua, as well as urging Jakarta to recognize the region’s independence.

Indonesian Papua occupies the western half of the island of New Guinea, a territory rich in natural resources and where the independence movement gained strength starting in 1963, when the Netherlands withdrew from its last possession on the archipelago.

After World War II, the Dutch had wanted to help establish West Papua as an entity separate from Indonesia due to the locals’ ethnic differences, but the United States and Jakarta blocked the move.

The other half of New Guinea is made up of the independent state of Papua New Guinea. EFE


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