Papua separatists released a video of a captured New Zealand pilot

In a recent video, Philip Mehrtens is seen fighting alongside members of TPNPB

Video of a New Zealand pilot who was kidnapped seven days ago has been made public by separatist fighters in Indonesia's Papua province.

After touching down in the isolated mountain province of Nduga in Papua, Philip Mehrtens was kidnapped.

Mr. Mehrtens was encircled by seven West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) fighters in the video that was sent to the BBC's Indonesian service.

If Papua was granted independence, they promised to release the pilot.

In 1961, Papua—then a Dutch colony—proclaimed its independence, but Indonesia seized power two years later. Since being formally placed under Jakarta's control in a UN-monitored vote in 1969, the resource-rich region has been embroiled in a conflict for independence.

In the videos, the combatants were armed with a combination of assault rifles and bows and arrows. The leader of the TPNPB, Egianus Kogoya, identified himself to the camera and outlined the group's demands.

The identity of the man cannot be independently verified by the BBC.

Mr. Mehrtens, who made an appearance in the video dressed in a blue denim jacket, hat, and long khaki pants, appeared to read a prepared statement in which he reiterated the rebels' demands.

The 37-year-old was abducted after Susi Air of Indonesia's Susi Air's small passenger plane touched down in Nduga.

He was scheduled to return to the Mozes Kilangin airport in Central Papua a few hours after dropping off five passengers when his plane took off early on Tuesday.

However, soon after touching down, rebels stormed the single-engine aircraft and captured the Christchurch native. Later, a TPNPB spokesman told BBC Indonesian that Mr. Mehrtens had been transferred to a stronghold district for the organization in a far-off location and would be used as "leverage" in political negotiations.

According to the group, New Zealand's military cooperation with Indonesia is the reason the pilot is detained.

The other travelers, who were natives of Papua, were let go.

Rebels in Papua who are fighting for independence from Indonesia have previously threatened and even attacked aircraft they thought were transporting personnel and supplies for Jakarta.

Indigenous Papuans and Indonesian authorities frequently engage in conflict; since 2018, pro-independence fighters have increased the frequency of their assaults.

There are two provinces in the area: Papua and West Papua. It does not share borders with Papua New Guinea, which Australia granted independence from in 1975.

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