Hostage New Zealand pilot Philip Mehrtens (c-r) surrounded by armed rebels who kidnapped him on Feb 7 in Western Papua, Indonesia.EFE/West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB)***ONLY EDITORIAL USE/MANDATORY CREDIT***

Papua rebels threaten to shoot NZ hostage, call for independence talks

Jakarta, May 27  (EFE).- Indonesian separatists have threatened to shoot a New Zealand pilot who was kidnapped almost four months ago if negotiations on the independence of the region do not prosper in the coming months.

Phillip Mehrtens, who was kidnapped on February 7, conveyed the message released on Saturday by the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB).

“The Papua military here have given two more months for the countries outside of Indonesia to engage in dialogue with Indonesia and Papua for Papua independence,” Mehrtens said in the video as he sits surrounded by armed rebels.

“If it does not happen within two months they say they will shoot me,” the New Zealander adds.

Mehrtens was abducted by fighters from the TPNPB, an armed wing of the Free Papua Movement, after landing a Susi Air plane in Papua province’s remote Nduga regency. Five local passengers were released.

In an attempt to free Mehrtens, the Indonesian authorities have launched offensives in the region in recent weeks that, according to the rebels, have resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen soldiers.

The separatists have stated that Mehrtens’ kidnapping is the first since 26 members of the World Wildlife Fund were abducted in the same area in 1996.

During the incident, some hostages were released by the rebels and others were released following an armed conflict with Indonesian soldiers that ended with the death of eight rebels and two hostages and five soldiers.

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.

In previous footage released by the TPNPB rebels have called for the United Nations to mediate in the conflict. EFE