The Indonesian conflict has escalated significantly since 2018, with pro-independence fighters mounting deadlier and more frequent attacks, largely because they have managed to procure more sophisticated weapons.
The New Zealand foreign minister said a range of government agencies continued to work extensively with their Indonesian counterparts to secure Mehrtens’ release.
The Indonesian government has previously said it had prioritised negotiations with religious and community leaders to free the pilot, noting the dangers of a conducting a military operation in the rugged highland area.
TPNPB spokesperson Sebby Sambom joined the call to release Mehrtens, saying that no country in history had gained independence by taking a hostage, but the highly factionalised rebel group is yet to heed that advice.
The separatist group has released video of Mehrtens several times, asking the United Nations to mediate talks towards Papua’s independence. In one of the videos, he was seen holding the banned Morning Star flag and surrounded by Papuan fighters.
Source: Channel News Asia