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OPM denies rumors to releasing New Zealand pilot Philips Max Mehrtens soon

Tempo - February 6, 2024

Reno Reza Mahendra, Jakarta – A spokesperson for the West Papua National Liberation Army, the armed wing of the Free Papua Movement (TPNPB-OPM), Sebby Sambom, denied issues that his side would release New Zealand pilot Phillip Mark Mehrtens on Feb. 7, 2024.

Sebby said that tomorrow, he would publish videos and photos of the current condition of the Susi Air pilot who has been held hostage since February 2023.

"We don't issue a statement about the release on Feb. 7, 2023, but we will announce the latest condition of the pilot," Sebby said via voice message to Tempo today, Feb. 6.

Sebby explained that Philips has no health or physical problems. "He's fine. He eats well."

The TPNPB-OPM has not yet released Philips because the Indonesian and New Zealand governments have not wanted to talk to the armed group.

"We have opened up but the Indonesian and NZ governments don't want to talk to us, so we don't know the reason," Sebby told Tempo in a text message last Friday, Feb. 2.

Philips Max Mehrtens has been held hostage by the TPNPB-OPM since February 7, 2023. The pilot flying Susi Air aircraft numbered SI 9368 first lost contact at 07:40 a.m. local time, and at 09:12 a.m. an emergency distress signal made it known that the plane was burned at Paro District Airport, Papua. Sebby Sambom claimed responsibility for sabotaging the plane and taking the pilot hostage.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1830403/opm-denies-rumors-to-releasing-new-zealand-pilot-philips-max-mehrtens-soo