New Zealand pilot held hostage by separatist fighters in Indonesia

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New Zealand pilot held hostage; Separatists in Indonesia’s Papua province have captured a New Zealand pilot. Taken him hostage after setting fire to his plane, the group said in a statement.

The pilot, identified by local police as Philip Merthens. Was arreste after he landed a commercial charter flight at Paro Airport in the remote highlands of Nduga district on Tuesday.

Five passengers, including a child, were on the Susi Air flight. But their fate is still unclear, Papuan police chief Mathius Fakhiri told reporters on Tuesday.

A search team of police and soldiers was sent to the area.

On Tuesday, the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) said. They had set fire to the plane at an airport and “captured” the pilot before taking him hostage.

“He is our second hostage,” TPNPB spokesman Eganus Kogeya said in a statement to AZ24 News. Referring to a 1996 incident in which the Free Papua Movement held 26 members of a wildlife investigation in the neighboring country. district Mapenduma. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), some hostages were held for more than four months.

In the statement, Eganus also call for the cancellation of all flights to Paro airport. Said the pilot would not be release until the Indonesian government recognized Papua’s independence.

New Zealand pilot held hostage; The Indonesian government has classified the TPNPB as a terrorist group.

New Zealand government officials told AZ24 News they were “aware of the situation involving the New Zealand pilot in Papua. That the New Zealand embassy in Jakarta was providing consular support to the family.

Susi Air founder Susi Pudjiastuti said on Twitter that she was praying for the safety of the pilot and passengers. In Indonesia’s eastern Papua region. Separatists have demanded independence since the region came under Indonesian rule following a disputed 1969 referendum overseen by the regime. United Nations. However, fighting has increased in recent years in the impoverished but resource-rich region. Where the Indonesian military has a strong presence.

‘Repetition of violence in Papua’

Human rights groups operating in the region condemned the attack.

“We urge the immediate and safe release of the pilot and hostages.” We also call on the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law,” said Usman Hamid. Director of Amnesty International Indonesia.

He said the incident exposed civilian casualties to “recurring violence in the Papuan region”.

“All parties must prioritize non-violence to save civilians,” he added.

According to Andreas Harsono, Indonesian researcher at Human Rights Watch, hostage-taking is a crime.

The West Papua National Liberation Army must immediately and unconditionally release all Nduga hostages,” Harsono said.

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