Kidnapping: New Zealand pilot still in rebel hands in Papua – Panorama

Kidnapping: New Zealand pilot still in rebel hands in Papua – Panorama

Footage provided by the National Liberation Army of West Papua shows New Zealand pilot Philip Mertens alongside the gunmen. Photo: Uncredited / National Liberation Army of West Papua / dpa

A New Zealand pilot was kidnapped in the Indonesian province of Papua more than a month ago. Two new videos have now been released. What do the kidnappers demand?

JAKARTA — About a month after separatist rebels kidnapped a New Zealand pilot in the Indonesian province of Papua, the kidnappers have released new videos and photos of their hostage. The kidnapped Philip Mertens can be seen on the recordings in good health and in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by natives, some of whom are heavily armed. On February 7, rebels from the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) set fire to a small passenger plane in the remote Nduga region and kidnapped the captain of the local airline SOS Air.

“Please don’t worry so much about me,” the 37-year-old says in one of the clips as he addresses his family. “They take care of me as much as the situation allows.” He gets enough food and water, and the rebels get him warm clothes.

In a second video, Mehrtens read a statement from the rebels saying he would not be released until after Papua’s independence from Indonesia. The United Nations should mediate the relevant negotiations. Until then, foreign pilots will be banned from operating in Papua. According to the rebels, the recording took place last Monday.

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The Indonesian-ruled region of Papua in the western half of New Guinea has been the scene of separatist uprisings since the 1960s. The province was annexed to Indonesia in 1969 in a vote sponsored by the United Nations. For years, there have been frequent violent conflicts in the resource-rich region. East of the island located north of Australia is the independent nation of Papua New Guinea.

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