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Papua police chief calls for immediate release of New Zealander pilot

Antara News - November 8, 2023

Evarukdijati, Rahmad Nasution, Jayapura, Papua – Chief of the Papua Police, Police Inspector General Mathius Fakhiri, has urged the Egianus Kogoya-led armed group to release New Zealander pilot Phillip Mark Mehrtens before the current year ends.

"I hope the armed group will immediately free the hostage, and his release will become a Christmas gift," Fakhiri said.

Speaking to journalists after chairing a change of leadership ceremony here on Monday, he said that Mehrtens has been held captive since February 7, 2023.

Regarding efforts to release Mehrtens, he said the Papua police are allowing Nduga district government officials along with local community and religious leaders to continue to negotiate with the hostage takers.

"Utmost efforts are being made to release Phillip Mehrtens. We hope he will soon be freed," he said, adding that Mehrtens is still being held captive and is reportedly in good health.

Mehrtens was piloting an aircraft belonging to Indonesian airline Susi Air when he was captured by the Kogoya-led armed group, whose members also set his aircraft on fire in Nduga district.

When asked about the current situation in Nduga district, Fakhiri said that it is relatively secure and under control. Security personnel are also continuing to make locals feel safe and protected.

ANTARA earlier reported that over the past few years, armed Papuan groups have often employed hit-and-run tactics against Indonesian security personnel and mounted acts of terror against civilians in the districts of Intan Jaya, Nduga, and Puncak to instill fear among the people.

The targets of such acts of terror have included construction workers, motorcycle taxi (ojek) drivers, teachers, students, street food vendors, and also civilian aircraft.

On December 2, 2018, a group of armed Papuan separatists brutally killed 31 workers from PT Istaka Karya who were engaged in the Trans Papua project in Kali Yigi and Kali Aurak in Yigi sub-district, Nduga district.

On March 2, 2022, several members of an armed Papuan group operating in Beoga sub-district, Puncak district, killed eight Palaparing Timur Telematika (PTT) workers, who were repairing a base transceiver station (BTS) tower belonging to state-owned telecommunications operator Telkomsel.

The workers were identified as B, R, BN, BT, J, E, S, and PD, while another worker, identified by his initials as NS, survived the assault, according to Papua Police spokesperson, Police Chief Commissioner Ahmad Kamal.

On October 16, 2023, Papuan separatists assaulted several traditional gold miners in Yahukimo district, Papua Pegunungan province, killing seven of them.

Source: https://en.antaranews.com/news/298164/papua-police-chief-calls-for-immediate-release-of-new-zealander-pilo