New Zealand pilot taken hostage by Papuan separatists in Indonesia

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 New Zealand pilot taken hostage by Papuan separatists in Indonesia

Separatist fighters in the Indonesian region of Papua took a New Zealand pilot hostage after setting fire to a small commercial plane that landed in a remote highland area on Tuesday. A Papua provincial police spokesman said authorities were investigating the incident, and the police and military were sent to the area to search for the pilot and five passengers.

“We can't send many personnel there because Nduga – remote area, you can only get there by plane”, – he said.

Papua military spokesman Herman Taryaman said the pilot had been identified as Captain Philip Mertens and it was unclear whether the five accompanying passengers were abducted. The plane, operated by Susi Air, landed safely early Tuesday morning before being attacked by insurgents, authorities said.

The West Papua National Liberation Army TPNPB claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the pilot will be released until the Indonesian government recognizes the independence of West Papua, located on the western part of the island of New Guinea.
TPNPB did not mention the passengers, but said it was the second time the group had taken hostages. The first case was in 1996.

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