Papua Rebels Urged by New Zealand to Release Pilot Kidnapped a Year Ago | Political News

New Zealand is calling for the immediate release of pilot Phillip Mehrtens who was kidnapped from an airstrip in the troubled Indonesian province of Papua. Mehrtens, who works as a commercial pilot for Susi Air, was taken captive by the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN-PB) last year. The TPN-PB released images and videos of Mehrtens surrounded by rebels in remote forested areas, demanding independence for Papua in exchange for his release.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters emphasized that Mehrtens was providing essential air links and supplies to remote communities at the time of his kidnapping. Peters strongly urged the captors to release Mehrtens immediately and without harm. The incident brought attention to the conflict in Papua, a region in Indonesia, with a long history of seeking independence since 1969.

Peters noted that New Zealand has been working with Indonesian authorities and others to secure Mehrtens’ release. The TPN-PB, the armed wing of the Free Papua Movement (OPM), indicated that they have been considering releasing Mehrtens based on humanitarian reasons.

Despite contact with friends and family before Christmas, Mehrtens remains in captivity. New Zealand continues to explore all possible options to bring the pilot back home. Indonesia has deployed police and soldiers to rescue Mehrtens, but there have been clashes in the region.

The situation in Papua has captured the attention of the international community, with concerns from UN human rights experts about the escalating violence. The area, home to significant gold and copper deposits, has strict regulations for outsiders to visit. The region has experienced a surge in violence since 2018, drawing increased scrutiny from international observers.

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