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Papuan fighters threaten to shoot NZ pilot hostage without independence talks | World News


Fighters in Indonesia’s Papua region have threatened to shoot a New Zealand pilot they took hostage in February if independence talks are not launched.

The demand comes in a new video released by the group on Friday, which shows an emaciated Phillip Mehrtens holding the banned Morning Star flag – a symbol of Papuan independence.

Surrounded by Papuan fighters brandishing rifles, Mr Mehrtens said they want other countries to be part of talks on the region’s bid for independence from Indonesia.

He said: “If it does not happen within two months, then they say they will shoot me.”

The Indonesian foreign ministry and the New Zealand embassy in Jakarta have not commented on the video.

Indonesian authorities have previously said they are trying to negotiate the pilot’s release, but they have struggled to access the part of the country where he is being held.

The West Papua Liberation Army fighters captured Mr Merhtens after he landed a commercial plane in the mountainous region of Nduga.

He had been helping to evacuate 15 construction workers who had been threatened with death while building a health centre in the remote district.

Image:
Philip Mehrtens was taken hostage in February. Pic: AP

The passengers were released because they were Papuans, according to rebel spokesman Sebby Sambom.

But Mr Merhtens, who is from Christchurch and works for Indonesian firm Susi Air, was taken.

Separatists in Papua – an impoverished but resource-rich area in the far east of the country sharing a border with Papua New Guinea – often believe outsiders are government spies

Papua became part of Indonesia in a controversial 1969 vote and there has been an insurgency ever since, with frequent violence between indigenous people and security forces.

In more recent years, the fighters have been able to access better weapons, increasing the number of clashes.



This story originally appeared on Skynews

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