Thu. Mar 30th, 2023


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Papua New Guinea: Kiwi pilot held hostage by armed rebels

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Indonesia: Separatist rebels hold Australian pilot hostage

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Terrifying footage shows a pilot from New Zealand who was captured by an armed rebel group in Papua West New Guinea. Philip Mehrtens, 37, landed a single-engine plane in the island nation north of Australia.

His plane was quickly seized by the group and set on fire.

Five passengers native to Papua New Guinea were released by the group, but they kept Mr Mehrtens hostage and are now using him to broadcast their demands.

In the video, Mr Mehrtens said: “The military have taken me captive in their fight for independence.”

The armed men were reportedly forcing Mr Mehrtens to read from a script.

The pilot has been moved to a rebel-controlled area, and is being “treated humanely”.

He works for the Indonesian aviation company Susi Air, and lives with other expats on the Indonesian island of Bali with his wife and young son.

The rebel group’s spokesman, Sebby Sambom, told The Telegraph they will not speak to the “enemy”, referring to the Indonesian government.

They will, however, speak to Australia and New Zealand.

Sambom said: “If New Zealand and the Australian government don’t want to respond to our demands, we will not release him.

“He will stay with us and we will ask him for training for our young people training for flying.”

The rebels also threatened to execute the pilot if Indonesia refused to recognize the western side of Papua New Guinea as independent – the region is currently recognised as a part of Indonesia.

Leader Sambom said they will look after the Kiwi pilot.

He added: “We are human beings, we understand, we understand about humanitarian but only Indonesia come and kill like [we are] animals.”

Mr Mehrtens was in Papua New Guinea’s remote west to pick up 15 construction workers who were building a health centre in Paro – where he was captured.

Papau District chief Namia Gwijangge said: “Our plan to evacuate the workers angered the rebels, who responded by setting fire to the plane and seizing the pilot.

“We deeply regret this incident.”

The rebel group are reportedly a part of the West Papua National Liberation Army, which is a group fighting for independence from Indonesia.

Indonesia and Papua West New Guinea have endured this tension since the 1960s. The region came under Indonesian control in 1969 after a controversial referendum sponsored by the UN.

The rebel group told New Zealand to end its cooperation with Indonesia. They accuse Jakarta of carrying out genocide against the Papuan people.

The coordinating minister for Political, Security and Legal Affairs Mohammad Mahfud said the government is trying to convince the rebels to stop holding people hostage.

He said: “Taking civilians hostage for any reason is unacceptable.”

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