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Free Papua Group Aims to Release New Zealand Hostage Directly to Home Country, Source Says

Translator

Najla Nur Fauziyah

Editor

Laila Afifa

20 June 2024 16:26 WIB

TEMPO.CO, JakartaThe leader of the West Papua National Liberation Army-Free Papua Movement or TPNPB-OPM Egianus Kogoya plans to release the Susi Air pilot Philip Mark Mehrtens without political demands, a Tempo source said. The time for the release, however, remain unknown.

TPNPB is said to have sent a letter to the New Zealand government, claiming that taking Philip hostage was not their true target and was merely bad luck. It’s not clear when the letter was sent. 

Egianus told the source that the group he led considered Philip a brother. The TPNPB leader said he would not kill Philip and instead look after him and hand him over directly to New Zealand without any middleman. 

TPNPB-OPM spokesperson, Sebby Sambom, also mentioned the plan to release Philip but said there has been no order thus far. "I don't talk to the pilot anymore. Someone is taking care of that. We have already ordered the pilot to be released. TPNPB is busy with its own agenda," said Sebby when contacted by Tempo via telephone on Tuesday, June 18, 2024.

Philip has been held hostage since February 7, 2023. TPNPB Chief of General Staff Terianus Satto said on February 7, 2024, that the group would release the pilot through the jurisdiction of the UN Secretary-General.  

The liberation group also published several recent photos of Philip. According to Terianus, the Susi Air pilot was not their primary target. The pilot was used as collateral for the Indonesian Government's violation of allowing civil flights to enter the OPM area in Nduga Regency.

TPNPB-OPM suspected the New Zealand pilot was carrying out a pioneer operation which was an Indonesian intelligence operation to spy on TPNPB movements, Terianus said.

“The Indonesian and New Zealand governments have been unable to open up peace negotiations with the Papuan people for the release of the pilot for the past year,” said Terianus.

TPNPB-OPM also threatened President Joko Widodo or Jokowi and the Indonesian government in West Papua for failing to meet their demands for the release of the pilot. “The New Zealand government doesn't want to accept TNPB's generous offer,” he said.

ADVIST KHOIRUNIKMAH

Editor’s Choice: Jokowi Gathers Ministers to Discuss Kratom Plants That Contain Narcotics 

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