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A separatist group who kidnapped a New Zealand pilot has issued a list of demands for his release as they distributed chilling pictures to prove he’s still alive.

Phillip Mehrtens, a pilot for Indonesian aviation company Susi Air who formerly flew with Jetstar, was kidnapped shortly after touching down in the remote West Papuan province of Nguda on February 7.

He was abducted after fighters from a faction of the West Papua Liberation Army – the armed wing of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) – set fire to his single engine plane.

Mr Mehrtens had flown into the area to remove 15 construction workers from the area after their lives had been threatened by the rebels.

The president of ULMWP, Benny Wenda, issued a statement on February 9 that laid out his demands while expressing his sympathy for Mr Mehrtens’ family.

He also gave reassurances about the pilot’s safety while in the hands of his troops.

‘Consular support is being provided to the family,’ New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said last week. 

The West Papua rebel group behind the February 9 abduction of New Zealand pilot, Phillip Mehrtens (middle), released photos of the captured airman while requesting complete independence from Indonesia to secure his release

The West Papua rebel group behind the February 9 abduction of New Zealand pilot, Phillip Mehrtens (middle), released photos of the captured airman while requesting complete independence from Indonesia to secure his release

Footage released by the ULMWP shows Mr Mehrtens surrounded by rebel fighters armed with guns, spears and bows and arrows.

In the clip the man is forced by the rebels to say: ‘Indonesia must recognise Papua is independent.’ 

‘The ULMWP Executive reiterates and reassures the New Zealand government and the world that we are [using] a peaceful, diplomatic approach,’ President Wenda wrote.

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‘Our roadmap is very clear: we are pursuing the unified West Papuan goal of national liberation peacefully, through diplomatic political mechanisms.’

To release Mr Mehrtens, the rebels are demanding the removal of Indonesian troops from West Papua, a UN investigation into alleged human rights violations, a referendum of independence and a cancellation of ‘Special Autonomy’.

‘The kidnap of a foreign pilot naturally brings West Papua to the attention of international media,’ Mr Wenda continued.

‘The international community must help to end the violence in West Papua by forcing Indonesia to come to the table and discuss a referendum, the only path to a peaceful resolution. 

Footage released by the West Papua Liberation Army shows Mr Mehrtens surrounded by men armed with guns, spears, bows and arrows while he was forced to make statements to camera in support of the rebels' cause

Footage released by the West Papua Liberation Army shows Mr Mehrtens surrounded by men armed with guns, spears, bows and arrows while he was forced to make statements to camera in support of the rebels’ cause

‘We will peacefully continue our long fight for freedom, until the world finally hears our cry.’

The leader of the Nguda faction of resistance, Egianus Kogoya, can also be seen in the video justifying his reasons for the capture of the pilot.

‘I took him hostage for Papua independence, not for food or drinks,’ Kogoya said.

‘He will be safe with me as long as Indonesia does not use its arms, either from the air or on the ground.’

However, a spokesperson for the Liberation Army has also issued a warning to other countries and areas, including Australia.

‘[The West Papuan Liberation Army] considers New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, America, Europe, all are responsible,’ a statement from the Liberation Army’s secretary, Sebby Sambom, reads.

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‘The US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand has supported the Indonesian government, trained The Indonesian National Police, supplied weapons to kill us West Papuans from 1963 to today. They must be held accountable.’ 

The president of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, Benny Wenda, sent his condolences to Mr Mehrtens' family for the troubles the abduction has caused them

The president of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, Benny Wenda, sent his condolences to Mr Mehrtens’ family for the troubles the abduction has caused them

The former Dutch colony in the western part of New Guinea, both ethnically and culturally distinct from Indonesia, has been in an insurgency against Indonesian security forces for decades.

Rebellion against Indonesia has smouldered since 1969 when a UN-sponsored ballot placed West Papua under Indonesian control.

The Nguda region was the scene of bloodshed in July last year when 10 traders were killed by the Liberation Army, who they claim were spies for the Indonesian government.

In March of that same year rebel gunmen killed eight technicians repairing a remote telecommunications tower, while in 2018 at least 31 construction workers and a soldier were killed in one of the worst attacks in the province.

Mr Mehrtens worked for Susi Air after leaving flight school, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, before stints with Jetstar and Cathay Pacific subsidiary Cathay Dragon. He then returned to the Indonesian aviation company.

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