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Complexities hinder release of NZ pilot held by Papuan rebels

Phillip Mehrtens news

The release of New Zealand pilot Phillip Mehrtens, who was taken hostage by the West Papua Liberation Army in February 2023, remains elusive due to the intricate dynamics between the rebels and Indonesian authorities.

Mehrtens, who was working for Susi Air, was captured after landing in Nduga Regency, Papua highlands, in violation of a rebel-imposed no-fly zone. Sixteen months later, efforts to secure his release have stalled, hampered by mutual distrust and a failed rescue mission that resulted in casualties on both sides.

Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono told state media there was a lack of trust between the West Papuan rebels and the Indonesian military. Although the rebels have indicated a willingness to release Mehrtens through the facilitation of the United Nations, ongoing conflicts and the exclusion of key militant factions from discussions have complicated negotiations. New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade continues to prioritise Mehrtens’ safety, working with Indonesian authorities and supporting his family.

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2 COMMENTS

    • Poor chap. His mental fortitude will be ebbing. He’s done well to survive in that environment up until now. I hope it’s resolved soon. Pretty confident the NZ SAS would sneak in there quick smart & resolve the situation & disappear into PNG before anyone even realises.

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