Papua militants release video of kidnapped NZ pilot

PHOTO: New video shows the New Zealand pilot kidnapped in West Papua is alive. (via Coconuts)

New footage has been released by the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), showing that New Zealand pilot, Philip Mehrtens, who was kidnapped last week, is alive and well. The video is the first proof of life since he was reportedly taken captive by Papua insurgents in the remote region of Nduga on Feb. 7.

Last week, in the Indonesian region of Papua, separatist fighters took a New Zealand pilot hostage and set fire to a small commercial plane after it made a landing in a remote highland area. The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and stated that the pilot would not be released until the Indonesian government acknowledged the independence of West Papua.

Mehrtens was reportedly flying a single-engine Susi Air plane when he landed to drop off five passengers, before being kidnapped by the insurgents who subsequently set fire to his plane.

In one of the several videos that have been made available to the media, Mehrtens is seen standing between TPNPB fighters, armed with rifles and bows and arrows, wearing a t-shirt bearing the West Papua flag underneath his denim jacket. He appears to be in good health as he recites a prepared statement supporting Papua’s independence from Indonesia.

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“The Papuan military has taken me captive in their fight for Papuan independence.”

Another video features a harsh warning that Mehrtens will be shot and killed if Indonesian forces attack. The man making that threat introduced himself as Eganius Kogoya, a commander with TPNPB.

The Papua Police Chief Inspector General dispatched a team to negotiate his release after confirming the authenticity of the video. He says that the footage is clear enough proof that Mehrtens is alive.

But he also believes that the video was recorded a week ago, just after he was taken hostage. So they will still need to locate where he is currently.

Indonesian security forces and indigenous separatist groups have been clashing since the 1960s. Papua was a Dutch colony until declaring itself an independent nation in 1961. Then in 1963, Indonesia took control of the region by force and subsequently annexed it in 1969 through a UN-sanctioned referendum, which was heavily criticized for being fraudulent.

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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