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New Zealand pilot sends heartbreaking message to his wife and children a year after he was seized by rebels
13 February 2024, 10:01
A New Zealand pilot taken hostage by rebels in the forests of West Papua has sent a heartbreaking message to his wife and daughter one year after he was kidnapped.
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Philip Mark Mehrtens, a 38-year-old former Jetstar pilot, appears gaunt in the new hostage video where he tells his family: “I’m OK, they are treating me well... I'm trying to stay positive and I hope that you and Jacob are healthy and doing OK and getting support.
“I love you both lots and miss you both lots and hope to be able to talk with you soon.”
He said that the regional commander told him he would try to organise a phone call with his family in the coming days.
Mr Mehrtens was kidnapped last year when he flew a light aircraft or the Indonesian airline Susi Air to Paro in the Papua highlands, carrying five Papuan passengers.
Philip Mark Mehrtens appears in hostage video after kidnapping by rebels in West Papua
He was supposed to pick up a group of health workers who had been under threat, but his plane was set alight and the Papuan passengers released before he was abducted.
The rebels threaten to kill him unless Papua was granted independence from the rest of Indonesia.
In another video released last week, he asked for his inhalers and a Kindle with some books on it to be delivered to him.
“Can you please help to get one or two ventolin inhalers just so that I have them available in case I get some asthma and, if possible, can I please get an e-book reader like a Kindle with as many English books as possible. That would be very much appreciated,” he says.
Earlier this month New Zealand called for the pilot’s immediate release.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said the New Zealander had been providing “vital air links and supplies to remote communities” at the time he was kidnapped.
“We strongly urge those holding Phillip to release him immediately and without harm. His continued detention serves the interests of no one,” Peters said in a statement to mark a year since the pilot was taken.
New Zealand is said to be “exploring all avenues” to bring the pilot home.
Indonesia deployed police and soldiers into the highland district in an attempt to rescue Mehrtens shortly after he was taken captive.