Phillip Mark Mehrtens Wiki – Bio
New Zealand pilot Phillip Mark Mehrtens has been photographed alive a week after he was taken hostage by Indonesian separatist rebels.
Phillip Mark Mehrtens, 37, was taken hostage on 7 February in Paro, part of the Nduga district, by members of the West Papua Liberation Army (TPNPB), an aggressive branch of the Free Papua Movement.
In one of the videos sent to The Associated Press on Tuesday by rebel spokesman Sebby Sambom, a man identified as Merhtens can be seen surrounded by people armed with rifles, bows, and spears. In another clip, the hostage is ordered to say “Indonesia must recognize that Papua is independent.”
At the time of his abduction, Mehrtens, a pilot for the Indonesian airline Susi Air, was scheduled to pick up 15 construction workers building a health center in Paro after rebels threatened to kill them. Located in the Indonesian highlands, flying is the only practical way to access parts of Nduga.
One of the five passengers on the plane, when it landed in Paro, was district chief Namia Gwijangge, who later described how angry rebels set the plane on fire and seized Mehrtens. We deeply regret this incident,” Gwijangge said of the clash, which was also captured on video released by the rebels.
Phillip Mark Mehrtens is 37 years old.
New Zealand pilot Philip Mehrtens held by rebels in Indonesia pleads for his life
Sambom confirmed that the rebels released the other five passengers from the plane because they were indigenous Papuans. I took [the pilot] hostage for the independence of Papua, not for food or drinks,” says TPNPB leader Egianus Kogoya in one of the videos, in which he appears alongside Mehrtens. He will be safe with me as long as Indonesia does not use its weapons, either from the air or on the ground.”
Papua Police Chief Mathius Fakhiri told reporters in Jayapura that law enforcement was working with community leaders, including tribal and church figures, to negotiate with the rebels. The Mehrtens kidnapping is the latest in a decades-long power struggle that began in the 1960s when Papua ceased to be a Dutch colony and was subjugated by Indonesia after a brief period of independence.
According to the BBC, the region has been vying for sovereignty since an UN-supervised vote confirmed Indonesian control in 1969. However, in a video statement released on Tuesday, the Coordinating Minister for Political Affairs, Security and Legal, Mohammad Mahfud. does not give in to Kogoya’s threats. While Mahfud called the kidnapping of Mehrtens “unacceptable” and vowed that “the priority is the safety of the hostage”, he also reiterated Papua’s role as part of Indonesia. Papua will forever remain a legitimate part of the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia,” he said.
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