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New Zealand has demanded the release of a pilot kidnapped by Papuan rebels in Indonesia

New Zealand has demanded the release of a pilot kidnapped by Papuan rebels in Indonesia

Jakarta/Sydney (Australia), February 5 (EFE).- The New Zealand government on Monday demanded the “immediate release” of the airline pilot kidnapped by Papuan rebels in Indonesia by Phillip Mehrtens before the end of a year this week. Retaining New Zealanders.

“We strongly urge those holding Philip to release him immediately. His continued detention serves no one's interests (…) Let me be absolutely clear. Holding hostages can never be justified,” Foreign Minister Winston Peters said. A statement.

New Zealand's diplomatic chief expressed his concern over the length of the kidnapping and indicated that the pilot was able to speak to some friends and family before Christmas who assured him he was “fine”.

A New Zealander was taken hostage on February 7, 2023 after landing a small plane belonging to local company Suzi Air with five passengers – who were released – at a remote airport on the Indonesian side of the island of New Guinea.

Since then, the New Zealand government has “explored all avenues” to bring Mehrtens back, the ministry noted today.

The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), a separatist group holding the New Zealand pilot hostage, has on previous occasions threatened to kill the hostage if talks on the region's independence fail and has called for United Nations mediation between Papua and Indonesia.

However, in a statement issued by the Central Committee of the TPNPB on Saturday, internal conflicts between the rebel leadership and the command that captured him were evident.

“There is no country in the history of the world that has gained freedom in exchange for a hostage,” the Central Committee said in a statement to its own militants, in which it highlighted the importance of freeing the pilot “immediately”.

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Rich in natural resources, Indonesian or West Papua, as the separatists call it, is part of Indonesia and is located on the island of New Guinea, the eastern part of which belongs to the Republic of Papua New Guinea.

Indonesian or West Papua is divided into six provinces and has been the scene of low-intensity armed conflict between the Indonesian government and various separatist movements since the area came under Jakarta's control in 1969. EFE