Photos and videos of missing Susi Air pilot Philip Mark Mehrtens, 37, have been confirmed distributed by the Commander of the XVII/Cenderawasih Regional Military Command, Major General Muhammad Saleh Mustafa.
Based on the documentation, Mustafa concluded that the pilot was with the KKB led by Egianus Kagoya. The New Zealand pilot was seen with a number of people armed with long barrels.
Mehrtens and five native Papuan passengers lost contact shortly after they landed at Paro Airport, Nduga Regency, Papua Mountains on Tuesday 7th February. The plane with registration number PK-BVY was allegedly set on fire by KKB led by Egianus Kogoya shortly after landing.
TNI Commander Admiral Yudo Margono said that the pilot and five passengers fled in a different direction. All five have been traced and returned to their respective homes. Meanwhile, Mehrtens has not been found to date.
“In the circulating visuals, KKB (the separatist terrorist group) has admitted to carrying out a terror act of burning the Susi Air plane and taking the Susi Air pilot hostage,” said Mustafa in a press release from Pendam XVII/Cenderawasih on Wednesday 15th February 2023.
Mustafa also stated that he had heard the demands of the KKB. The National Armed Forces and police are continuing to carry out an in-depth search.
“It includes the involvement of all parties; religious leaders, community leaders, and traditional leaders, as well as local government,” he added.
In a separate statement, the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Mahfud MD said that the government was coordinating with New Zealand to look for the pilot. The government took a persuasive approach to the KKB, which MD said had taken the Susi Air pilot hostage.
“The government will continue to make every effort to save the hostages with persuasive approaches because the priority is their safety,” he said in a press statement in Jakarta on Tuesday 14th February.
“Persuasive efforts are the main guideline for the safety of hostages, but the government does not rule out other efforts,” said Mahfud.
Papua is a legal part of the Republic of Indonesia, both according to the constitution and international law.
The attack apparently related to the KKB, which is suspected of the death of 15 healthcare centre construction workers in Paro, in early January 2023. KKB suspected that some of these workers were members of the National Armed Forces or the State Intelligence Agency.
“So they conducted inspections of the residents who built the health care centre. However, after it was built, there were indeed five people who had no identity, no ID cards,” said Head of the Papua Regional Police Inspector General Mathius D Fakhuri.
After receiving this information, Fakhuri ordered his staff to evacuate the 15 workers. The Nduga Police Chief immediately coordinated with the Kenyam Regent to remove them from Paro District.
“We don’t want massacres. Continuing from the pre-incident, on the 4th, 5th, and 6th of January 2023, we have made plans for a meeting in Timika, when the plane arrives at Paro, we will take these workers out,” said Fakhuri.