Papua rebels release videos showing kidnapped NZ pilot alive

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JAYAPURA, Indonesia – Separatist rebels in Indonesia’s Papua region released more photos and videos Friday that appear to show the life of a New Zealand pilot they kidnapped last month.

In a video released on Friday by rebel spokesman Sebby Sambom, a man wearing a blue jacket is identified as Philip Mark Mehrtens from Christchurch, a pilot for Indonesian airline Susi Air who was kidnapped by fighters or -dependency from the West Papua Liberation Army, the armed wing. of the free Papua movement. He sat at a wooden block on the ground surrounded by separatists holding various weapons, with the morning star flag which is a separatist symbol.

Mehrtens was asked to read a statement from a piece of paper he had. He said that foreign pilots were not allowed to work or fly in Papua until it became independent, and that the Free Papua Movement asked the United Nations to mediate independence negotiations.

In a separate video, Mehrtens delivered a message to his family asking them not to worry too much, as he was taken care of and had enough food and water. He also requested that his salary be sent directly to his wife.

Another video shows Egianus Kogoya, the leader of the separatist group reading demands.

“We ask the UN Security Council to mediate the armed conflict between the West Papua Liberation Army and the Indonesian Military in Papua,” Kogoya said in the video.

The group also asked New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, the US, France, China and Russia to stop supporting military cooperation to Indonesia.

On February 6, the West Papua Liberation Army stormed Mehrtens’ single-engine plane shortly after it landed on a small airstrip in Paro in the remote Nduga district. The plane, which was carrying five passengers, was expected to pick up 15 construction workers who had been building a health center in Paro. The rebels released the five passengers because they are Indigenous Papuans, Sambom had said.

Flying is the only practical way to access many parts of the mountainous region.

The 15 construction workers, who were rescued on February 8 by security forces, came from other Indonesian islands to build the health center in Paro. They had taken refuge in a priest’s house in the town for several days after rebels threatened to kill them.

Sambom sent videos and photos on February 14 to The Associated Press that showed a group of gunmen, led by Kogoya, setting fire to the plane on the runway.

Separatists consider civilian workers to be foreigners who sometimes spy for the Indonesian government.

The Indonesian Military said in a statement in February that the military officers are taking the soft approach by negotiating between the separatist group and religious and community leaders. But military officers are ready to select and direct measurable legal actions.

Conflicts between Indigenous Papuans and Indonesian security forces are common in the impoverished region of Papua, a former Dutch colony in western New Guinea that is ethnically and culturally different from much of Indonesia. Papua was annexed to Indonesia in 1969 after a UN-sponsored ballot that was widely seen as a sham. Since then, there has been a low-level emergency dating in the mineral-rich region. Conflict in the region has escalated in the past year, with dozens of rebels, security forces and civilians killed.

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