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'I am alive, I am healthy', kidnapped pilot in Papua says in new video

Radio New Zealand - April 26, 2023

New Zealand hostage Phillip Mehrtens, who is being held by separatists in West Papua, appears well in a newly-released video.

It comes as concerns were expressed for the pilot as fighting between Indonesian security forces and his captors, the West Papua Liberation Army, intensified last week.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said he had received reports of the increased military confrontations and again called on the separatist group to release Mehrtens.

In the new video, which is poor quality, Mehrtens called on Indonesia to stop airstrikes in Nduga, saying they were unnecessary and put his life and the lives of other innocents at risk.

The video statement was released by the West Papua Liberation Army central command and purportedly shot on Monday in Nduga.

The Susi Air pilot was taken hostage by the Liberation Army fighters on 7 February shortly after landing on a remote Paro airstrip in Nduga, Highland Papua.

The video received by RNZ Pacific shows Mehrtens sitting between two West Papuans; he speaks first in Bahasa Indonesian and then in English.

"Good afternoon, today is Monday the 24th of April 2023," he said.

"It's almost three months since OPM [the Free Papua Movement] kidnapped me from Paro. As you can see I am still alive. I am healthy, I have been eating well, drinking. I live with the people here.

"We travel together as required, we sit together, we rest together. Indonesia's been dropping bombs in the area over the last week. Please, there is no need, it is dangerous for me and everybody here. Thank you for your support."

The West Papua Liberation Army issued a statement accompanying the video file urging Indonesia to stop its military operation to try and rescue Mehrtens and calling on New Zealand to mediate and initiate negotiations for his release.

Source: https://www.rnz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/488694/i-am-alive-i-am-healthy-kidnapped-pilot-in-papua-says-in-new-vide