A handout photo made available by Papua Police Headquarters shows Indonesian police and military personnel boarding an helicopter during a search and rescue operation for Susi Air pilot and passengers at an airport in Timika, Papua, Indonesia 08 February 2023. EFE/EPA/FILE/PAPUA POLICE HEADQUARTERS / HANDOUT HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

Indonesia’s Papua rebels kill 9 soldiers for not negotiating NZ pilot release

Jakarta, Apr 16 (EFE).- Separatists in Indonesia’s Papua province on Sunday said they killed nine soldiers in an attack after having failed to receive any official response to their offer to negotiate the release of a New Zealand pilot, held hostage since Feb.7.

“It has been two months, the Indonesian and New Zealand Governments have not answered our letters,” said a statement by the Free Papua Movement, which represents several separatist militias, including the one claiming the kidnapping, the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB).

According to the statement, which does mention the status of the kidnapped pilot, the TPNPB killed nine Indonesian armed forces personnel on Saturday in Yal, in Nduga district.

Rich in natural resources, West Papua or Indonesian Papua is located on the island of New Guinea, the eastern part of which belongs to Papua New Guinea.

The New Zealand pilot, Philip Mark Mehrtens, has been held captive there since Feb.7, when he landed with a small plane of the local company Susi Air with five passengers – who were released – at a remote airport in the district of Nduga.

The Free Papua Movement also claimed their attack was an act of vengeance for an Indonesian military operation in West Papua on Mar.23, in which three people were reportedly killed, among them two members of the TPNPB and a pregnant woman.

“We’re still at war. Over 3 days, on Saturday and on Sunday, we’re still at war. We received a report today that the (Indonesian) army launched an attack with a helicopter this morning,” said the group’s spokesperson Sebby Sambon in another statement.

On Mar.10, Mehrtens was made to read out the demands of the separatists in a video released by them.

“I have been instructed to read this statement,” Mehrtens said in the video. “No foreign pilots are permitted to work and fly in Papua until Papua is independent.”

Free Papua Movement “requests the United Nations to mediate between Papua and Indonesia to work towards Papuan independence. OPM will release me when Papua is independent,” he had further said.

After his kidnapping last month, the separatists started releasing various demands, including that New Zealand take the conflict to the UN Security Council; that the International Criminal Court initiate an investigation into abuses by Indonesia in the region, and that Indonesia recognize the independence of this territory.

Rich in natural resources, Papua, in the east of the western half of the island of New Guinea, has been the scene of a low-intensity armed conflict between the central Indonesian state and secessionist movements since the region came under the control of Jakarta in 1969. EFE