New Zealand pilot taken hostage in Indonesia's Papua

Wed, Feb 8

A New Zealand pilot has been taken hostage by separatist fighters in the Papua region of Indonesia.

A small commercial plane was set alight when it landed in a remote highland area, according to a statement from the rebel group, the West Papua Liberation Army.

It has named the pilot as Phillip Mark Mehrtens.

Local authorities say police and military personnel have been sent to the area to locate the pilot and five passengers.

The rebel group said the passengers, which included a young child, were released as they are indigenous Papuans.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it is aware of the situation and the New Zealand Embassy is providing consular support to the pilot's family.

"For privacy reasons, we will not be commenting further on the case."

Papua is a former Dutch colony in the western part of Papua New Guinea.

It was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 after a UN-sponsored ballot that was widely seen as a sham. Since then, a low-level insurgency has simmered in the mineral-rich region, which is divided into two provinces, Papua and West Papua.

Additional reporting by AP


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