Separatist rebels in Papua have released photos of an apparently healthy pilot they took hostage a week ago. Philip Mehrtens, a New Zealander, landed his Susi Air charter flight at Paro Airport in a fractious area of the Indonesian territory on Feb. 7. He was seized at gunpoint by members of the West Papual National Liberation Army (TPNPB) who then torched his airplane. There were five passengers on the flight but there has been no word about what happened to them. The rebels have been demanding that flights to Paro cease and say they won’t release Mehrtens until they gain independence from Indonesia.
The group claimed responsibility in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “TPNPB has admitted the responsibility for the burning of the plane and taking hostage of a Susi Air pilot who is a citizen of New Zealand, and we keep our promise and are politically responsible,” it said in the statement. Indonesia has controlled the region since 1969 and the rebels have been fighting it ever since. Indonesia considers the TPNPB to be a terrorist organization. New Zealand isn’t commenting.