TNI says TPNPB trying to distract security forces from saving Susi Air pilot

Commander of the 172/Praja Wira Yakthi Military Resort Command, Brigadier General JO Sembiring. - Jubi/Alexander Loen

Jayapura, Jubi – Commander of 172/Praja Wira Yakthi Military Resort Command Brig. Gen. Juinta Omboh Sembiring assessed that the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) led by Egianus Kogoya tried to distract security forces from saving New Zealand Susi Air pilot Philip Mark Mehrtens who was held hostage by TPNPB. Kogoya’s group continues to carry out attacks in various different areas and moves quickly.

Sembiring said the group that carried out a number of attacks in Yahukimo Regency was a splinter of Kogoya’s group, whose most members are based in Nduga Regency. “The group deliberately took action so that our concentration was divided,” he continued.

Sembiring said the search for the Susi Air pilot met several obstacles because, he claimed, Kogoya’s group always brought small children, women and mothers as shields.

He said his party always tried to be careful and professional in carrying out the rescue operation for the Susi Air pilot. “We do not bombard settlements or burn honai [traditional Papuan house] belonging to the community,” Sembiring said.

Previously, on February 7, 2023, TPNPB group led by Egianus Kogoya burned a Susi Air plane that landed at Paro Airstrip, Nduga Regency, Mountainous Papua Province. They took the pilot of the plane, Philip Mark Mehrtens, hostage.

On February 14, TPNPB released photos and videos of the burning of the Susi Air plane. On March 10, TPNPB again released a video showing Philip Mark Mehrtens was with them and in good health. In the 27-second video, Mehrtens is seen wearing beige pants, a hat and a blue jacket with black patterns. He sits in the center, flanked by TPNPB members carrying firearms.

“TPNPB will release me after Papua’s independence,” Mehrtens said in the video, He also said TPNPB asked the United Nations to become a mediator between Papua and Indonesia to free Papua as a nation. (*)

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