A New Zealander commercial pilot has been taken hostage by a group of militants who demand their province’s independence from Indonesia. Pilot Phillip Mark Mehrtens was taken prisoner by the West Papua Liberation Army as he sought to airlift a group of construction workers out of the unstable Papua province earlier this month, according to SBS World News. Mehrtens, a resident of Christchurch, was seized by a group of rebels as he sought to pick up 15 construction workers in the Nduga district. Members of the armed group had threatened the workers, who were constructing a healthcare facility in the remote province. Nduga district chief Namia Gwijangge expressed his regrets regarding Mehrtens’ abduction in a statement. “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 militants pose with Mehrtens while holding weapons in one photo — including rifles, as well as primitive weapons such as spears and bows in another image.
The prisoner is made to gesture next to a man holding a West Papua Liberation Army flag in one photo. The rebels deliver a message in the presence of Mehrtens in a video.
Videos and images of New Zealand pilot hostage Philip Mehrtens released by West Papuan independence fighters. They’ve declared he is alive and well. via @AnneABarker https://t.co/uibXUgPWKP pic.twitter.com/voEJB0zVcL— Prianka Srinivasan (@iamprianka) February 14, 2023
Mehrtens was made to demand that Indonesia recognize the Papua region as independent in another propaganda video, according to the New York Post. “Indonesia must recognize Papua is independent,” Mehrtens was coerced into stating. A leader of the group stated his intention to use the hostage as leverage against Indonesia. “He will be safe with me as long as Indonesia does not use its arms, either from the air or on the ground,” Egianus Kogoya said of Mehrtens, according to the Post. The West Papua Liberation Army is considered a terrorist organization in the eyes of Indonesia’s government. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
#WestPapua: The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) has released footage showing New Zealander pilot Philip Mehrtens alive in custody of the group. Merhtens was taken hostage after his plane landed in the Nduga region last week.https://t.co/zojUDSnX6d pic.twitter.com/8Vng2Kcmec— POPULAR FRONT (@PopularFront_) February 15, 2023