Papua Police 'locate' where Kiwi pilot Phillip Mehrtens is being held, team on way


The Papua Police says it believes it has located where New Zealand pilot Phillip Mehrtens is being held by an armed separatist group.

The Jakarta Post reports Papua Police chief Inspector Matthius Fakhiri saying it has sent a team to negotiate the release of Mehrtens.

The team consists of local politicians, and he expects them to make contact soon with the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) in the remote Nduga regency.

He also said the Police have tracked down the location where Mehrtens is being held, especially after the separatist group released photos of the pilot allegedly taken by its members.

"We want everyone to pray that we can finish the job without causing another incident, [that] we can get the pilot released and everything goes back to normal," Matthius said.

Papua media outlet Jubi TV reports a written statement by Fakhiri it has received said the team had walked to the location where Mehrtens was held hostage.

"Please give us time as the team went there on foot. It will take one to two days to cross the river and pass through such difficult topography. We hope they can arrive safely," Fakhiri said in the written statement.

Mehrtens was abducted by fighters from the TPNPB last Tuesday after landing a plane operated by Susi Air in Nduga.

TPNPB spokesman Sebby Sambom sent RNZ Pacific video footage and photographs of Mehrtens wearing a denim jacket and a Free Papua T-shirt and surrounded by a group of around a dozen men, some armed with guns and bows and arrows.

"The Papuan military that has taken me captive to fight for Papuan independence, they ask for the Indonesian military to go home to Indonesia and if not, I will remain captive for my life," Mehrtens said in the video.

He also said: "Indonesia needs to recognise Papuan independence."

Meanwhile, three New Zealand diplomats and two staff from the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs arrived this week in the capital of Mimika Regency, Central Papua Province on Monday.

Local media reports they are there to monitor the progress of the search for Mehrtens.

Disclaimer: RNZ Pacific uses the photos only in the context of reporting events and does not in any way endorse the actions of the TPNPB.