APSN Banner

TNI denies bombing Papua district in bid to free NZ pilot

Jakarta Post - April 1, 2024

Jakarta – Responding to a claim by the separatist West National Liberation Army (TPNPB) that aerial bombing had occurred in an area where New Zealand pilot Philip Mehrtens was taken hostage, the Indonesian Military (TNI) said it had deployed only flyby operations in Nduga regency.

Lt. Col. Candra Kurniawan, a spokesperson for the Cendrawasih Regional Military Command in Papua province, denied that any military operation involving aerial bombs had taken place. He underlined that soldiers from the Nduga District Military Command 1706 only carried out routine patrols in the region.

"This [patrol] was conducted together with the local community. There has been nothing like an air strike," Candra told Tempo on Saturday. He also rebuffed the TPNPB's claim that TNI soldiers had engaged in a firefight with members of separatist group. "Many [TNI] members are in the field serving the community, the situation is also conducive," Candra added.

Earlier on March 30, TPNPB spokesperson Sebby Sambom said in a statement received by Tempo that the military had deployed aerial attacks using "military aircraft, helicopters and drones" and destroyed four of the group's posts in Nduga.

Sebby said the attacks took place between March 27 and 29, and that the latest attack involved a joint TNI-National Police operation dropping aerial bombs in the area where Mehrtens was being held.

"The TNI authority has carried out a dangerous mission to free Capt. Phillip Mark Mehrtens in Nduga," he said, adding that although the TPNPB's local post was destroyed, its troops and Mehrtens had both survived.

The TPNPB, the armed wing of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) that is fighting for Papuan independence from Indonesia, kidnapped Susi Air pilot Mehrtens on Feb. 7, 2023 after he landed a small passenger plane at Paro Airport in the remote mountain region of Nduga.

More than one year since his abduction kidnapping, very little is known about where the New Zealander is being held or under what conditions he is living.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/indonesia/2024/04/01/tni-denies-bombing-papua-district-in-bid-to-free-nz-pilot.htm