Kidnapped NZ pilot calls upon Indo Govt to stop bombing in Nduga Regency, West Papua

On 12 April 2024, the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) released new videos of  New Zealand pilot Captain Phillip Mark Mehrtens, who has been held captive by a TPNPB group in the Nduga Regency, Papua Pegunungan Province, since February 2023. It is the first sign of life from Mehrtens since early 2024. In February 2024, the TPNPB spokesperson said that the group was ready to hand over Mehrtens to a neutral party, but Phillip Mehrtens was never released. In a video message, the pilot from New Zealand calls upon the Indonesian Military (TNI) to halt airstrikes against various districts in the Nduga Regency. According to the statement, the TNI had dropped bombs from fighter jets, helicopters, and drones, putting the lives of the pilot and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Nduga in danger (see video below, source: TPNPB.

The videos shows Mehrtens beside the TPNPB commander, Mr Egianus Kogiya, next to seven TNPB fighters (see videos below, source: TPNPB). He said the situation is getting more dangerous for him and other people in the area, asking other countries to seek diplomatic talks with the Indonesian Government to stop the airstrikes. “In this area, large areas have been destroyed. Before, I was in a safe area, but I have been taken again by the Papuan military. It’s not so safe for me anymore, “says Mehrtens. Captain Mehrtens made a similar video statement in April 2023 after Indonesian security forces had tried to free the hostage by force.  

Standing next to Captain Mehrtens, TPNPB commander Egianus Kogoya, condemned the Indonesian government for carrying out the airstrikes and putting the hostage and other civilians in the area in danger. According to Kogoya, the TNI had carried out the airstrikes with fighting jets around 4.00 am outside of the designated combat zone in Nduga, where IDPs had built their temporary shelters in the forest. He called upon the tNI to immediately stop the bombings and declared in a separate video statement, “We thought that Indonesia and New Zealand were open for negotiations with the TPNPB, but we saw that they appear not to have an interest in the hostage pilot staying alive. Thus, we will take the pilot to combat with us to die together on the battlefield” (see videos below, source: TPNPB).

The media platform ‘Radio New Zealand’ reported that the TPNPB spokesperson, Mr Sebby Sambom, unveiled its demands regarding the release of New Zealand pilot Captain Philips Mark Mehrtens. The TPNPB seeks United Nations-mediated negotiations before agreeing to liberate the hostage pilot. “We will release the pilot through negotiations facilitated by a third party, namely the UN,” declared Sambom in a written statement dated 13 April 2024. However, the statement reportedly refrained from elaborating on the specific nature of these demands. “Indonesia must stop using helicopter bombings, drones, and surveillance cameras. The actions undertaken by the Indonesian state through its military and police against us are entirely disproportionate,” Sambom added.

The military spokesperson, Major General Nugraha Gumilar, denied that the TNI had used fighting jets to conduct airstrikes in Nduga. Previously, TPNPB had claimed that the military had bombed several TPNPB posts in the Nduga Regency in ongoing attacks between 27 April and 4 May 2024. The attacks were reportedly conducted near locations where internally displaced people from Nduga have built camps in the forest.

Following the TNI statement, the TPNPB released video material that should allegedly show helicopters shooting and conducting an airstrike in Nduga. Another video shows a piece of forest where one of the bombs reportedly hit the ground (see video below, source: TPNPB). A metadata analysis of the video materials did not bring new insights into the authenticity of the videos.


The TNI has reportedly been using combat drones and helicopters during raids in other regencies in West Papua, attacking civilian settlements with mortar grenades launched from the air and the ground. Photos and video material of drones used by the Indonesian military indicate a large variety of drones used by the TNI for combat and surveillance purposes. In January 2024, TPNPB fighters shot down a TNI battle drone in the Intan Jaya Regency (see photos below, source: independent HRDs).