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TNI denies deploying aircraft, air strikes in hunt for NZ pilot in Papua

CNN Indonesia - April 13, 2024

Jakarta – The TNI (Indonesian military) headquarters has denied deploying combat aircraft and dropped bombs in Papua in the context of efforts to free Susi Air pilot Philip Mark Mehrtens.

This was conveyed by TNI Information Centre Head Major General Nugraha Gumilar in response to a statement by West Papua National Liberation Army-Free Papua Organisation (TPNPB-OPM) spokesperson Sebby Sambom who said the TNI has conducted bombings in refugee areas, Kwiyawagi, Geselema, Yuguru and Nduga.

"These are untrue reports. The TPNPB-OPM always reports fake news", he said by SMS message when sought for confirmation on Saturday April 13.

Gumilar claimed that so far all TNI and Polri (Indonesian police) who are serving in the land of Papua have always prioritised a humanist attitude towards the people of Papua.

"The presence of the TNI and Polri is highly anticipated by the people of Papua", he explained.

Therefore, Gumilar gave assurances that it is not possible that the TNI has conducted bombings as charged by the TPNPB-OPM. Let alone, he added, targeting civilians, especially refugees.

"So how could refugee area or civil society be the target of attacks", he said.

Gumilar believes that the message related to bombing attacks and the threat of taking Mehrtens into combat areas is just propaganda to create commotion among Papuan communities.

"This is just OPM propaganda so that people are afraid. The OPM does not like it if the Papuan people's lives are clam and peaceful", he concluded.

Earlier, the TPNPB-OPM again released a video from Mehrtens, a New Zealand national who has been held hostage by the group since February 7, 2023. In the video, Mehrtens is seen escorted by several fully armed OPM members.

Through the video, Mehrtens said that the TNI is using combat aircraft in its attempts to free him. He then requested that the TNI not use combat aircraft and stop releasing bombs from the air in the Papua region.

"I am here, the TNI, the Indonesian National Army, is using combat aircraft to release big bombs. The people here are asking for help, don't use combat aircraft, don't use bombs", he said in the video as quoted on Saturday.

In the same video, Mehrtens also asked for help from foreign countries to communicate with the Indonesian government over the use of combat aircraft.

"Foreign countries, overseas countries please help, please talk to Indonesia, talk to them, don't use big bombs, please stop, they're not allowed to do that", he said.

Meanwhile in a written statement, Sebby Sambom said the TNI had dropped bombs in the Kwiyawagi, Geselma and Yuguru areas. He then threatened to take Mehrtens into combat areas if the TNI does not stop the bomb attacks.

"So we will take the pilot around in the combat area until he dies along with us from the TPNPB-OPM Ndugama-Darakma III Kodap [defense command area]", he said. (tfq/pmg)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "TNI Bantah OPM soal Kerahkan Pesawat dan Bom di Papua".]

Source: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20240413171541-12-1085933/tni-bantah-opm-soal-kerahkan-pesawat-dan-bom-di-papu