Indonesia.  The pilot is kidnapped by Papuan separatists.  13 soldiers were to die

Thirteen Indonesian soldiers and policemen were killed in two attacks on military bases over the weekend, according to separatists in the Indonesian province of Papua. They said it was in response to an Indonesian army operation to free New Zealand pilot Philip Mertens, who was held captive by the separatists.

In a statement released on April 16, the separatist group known as the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) said its militants attacked two military bases in Yale and Mogi districts of Nduga district over the weekend. In both attacks, a total of 13 Indonesian soldiers and policemen were reported killed and their bodies taken by the separatists, except for one. However, CNN asserted that the insurgents did not provide any evidence confirming the number of casualties or that there were bodies in their possession.

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conflict in Papua

Sepe Sambom, a spokesman for the separatists, said nine of the dead were captured and executed. As he explained, it was in response to an operation carried out by the Indonesian army in late March. Two Papuan soldiers and a pregnant woman were to die.

We have offered the governments of New Zealand and Indonesia peace negotiations. But on March 23, the Indonesian army and police attacked civilians. For this reason, TPNPB affiliates have announced the retaliation, which is just beginning, Sambom said in a voicemail quoted by Reuters.

Indonesian army operation

The Indonesian military has so far confirmed the death of at least one soldier. During Sunday’s conference, it was reported that he died while combing the area where separatist pilot Philippe Mehrtens would be held since February.

The military has also admitted that several other soldiers are considered missing, but the weather is making it difficult to locate them. “We know the whereabouts of the New Zealand pilot, and the operation has begun, but the weather conditions in Papua are unpredictable,” said Julius Widjogono, a spokesman for the Indonesian military. At the same time, he confirmed that a military operation was underway to release the pilot.

New Zealand pilot Philip MehrtensWest Papua Liberation Army via AP/East News

The pilot is kidnapped by Papuan separatists

New Zealander Philip Mehrtens, who was flying the Indonesian airline SOS Air, was kidnapped by militants from the West Papua National Liberation Army in the first half of February.

A few days later, the separatists released recordings and photos of themselves posing with Mehrtens. The pilot appeared to be in good shape and his hands were not tied. In one picture he is squeezing a fighter’s hand, in another he is holding a bow in his hands. However, in the joint filing, he himself said that the TPNPB members would not release him until their region’s independence was recognized.

Indonesia’s eastern provinces have suffered from independence struggles ever since the resource-rich region was handed over to Indonesian control in a controversial 1969 UN vote. The conflict has escalated in recent years, and Philip Mertens was the first person to be hijacked by the TPNPB since 1996.

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CNN, Reuters and The Diplomat

Main image source: West Papua Liberation Army via AP/East News

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