New Zealand Pilot Appears in Photos with West Papua Rebels

New Zealand Pilot Appears in Photos with West Papua Rebels

West Papua: A New Zealand pilot taken hostage by separatist fighters in Indonesia’s Papua region has appeared in photos with armed West Papua rebels. 

The photos released on Tuesday show the pilot, Philip Mehrtens, standing fully clothed and uninjured among a group of fighters holding weapons. 

The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) claimed responsibility for capturing Mehrtens after he landed a commercial Susi Air charter flight at Paro Airport last week and demanded that all incoming flights to the airport be stopped. 

The TPNPB said it would release Mehrtens when the Indonesian government acknowledges Papuan independence. 

The group previously burned Mehrtens’ plane. 

Separatist fighters in Papua have been demanding independence since the region was brought under Indonesian control following a controversial 1969 vote overseen by the United Nations. 

The Indonesian government designates the TPNPB as a terrorist group.

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