JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com – Indonesia Police said that the New Zealander pilot of Susi Air, Phillip Mark Mehrtens, held hostage for three weeks by the armed criminal group (KKB) in Papua, is in good condition.
“From the results of the communication between the team and the local government, the pilot's condition is quite good,” said National Police's public relations division head Inspector General Dedi Prasetyo on Friday, March 3 in Jakarta.
The police along with the Peace Carstensz Task Force, comprising the Indonesia Military (TNI), local administration, and religious leaders, are prioritizing dialog efforts in releasing the pilot from New Zealand, he said.
The dialog was made by the district head, who communicated with the KKB and traditional leaders, Dedi said.
"Our priority is the safety of Captain Merthens," he said.
The two-star general added that communication between the local government and KKB aimed at ensuring the safety of Captain Merthens.
"Even though he had been held hostage for three weeks, we still prioritize a soft approach of communication between the local government and KKB," he said.
Dedi explained that one of the obstacles in releasing Captain Merthens was the difficulty in communicating due to poor connection.
To communicate, the local government should find a certain location point to be able to reach the KKB, he said.
"Communication is not as easy as in other areas. The poor network quality makes it difficult. That is the main obstacle," he said.
He emphasized that the goal of the soft approach is the return of Captain Merthens to good health.
He said that the National Police did not limit the time for this operation. Hence, dialogue efforts are prioritized while ensuring the sound condition of Captain Merthens.
However, law enforcement efforts are also being prepared and will be carried out following suggestions from the local government and religious leaders, he said.
Captain Merthens, who flew the Pilatus plane operated by Susi Air, has been held hostage by KKB since Tuesday, Feb 7. KKB then burned the plane at Paro Airfield, Nduga, Papua Mountains.
Previously, the police confirmed that the armed criminal group led by Egianus Kogoya and his accomplices had brought Captain Mehrtens away from the Paro region and left the Nduga district to enter neighboring districts.
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