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    5. Captured New Zealand pilot: 'Indonesian airstrikes could kill me'

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    Captured New Zealand pilot: 'Indonesian airstrikes could kill me'

    Philip Mertens with his captors who captured a pilot as he tried to pick up construction workers in a remote area of ​​Nduga

    New Zealand pilot taken hostage in West Papua, says his life is in danger due to a wave of Indonesian airstrikes in the area where he is staying.

    “The Indonesian military dropped bombs in the area at night,” Philipp Mertens said in new footage. published on Friday.

    “It’s not so safe for me anymore,” he added. “Large areas were destroyed.”

    Mr Mertens was kidnapped in February 2023 after he landed in the remote Nduga area to pick up construction workers.

    The 37-year-old married father of one is being held by the West Papua National Service. The Liberation Army, a rebel group that has repeatedly threatened to execute him unless the province is granted independence from Indonesia.

    Indonesian army and police send forces into rugged mountainous terrain to try to rescue Mertens, while New Zealand participated in diplomatic negotiations with representatives of both sides.

    Supporters of Mr Mertens had hoped in recent weeks that negotiators were close to his release as his captors softened their rhetoric.

    But on Friday the group issued a stark warning in response to Indonesia's military escalation: “We will carry this pilot on the battlefield until he dies with us.”

    Forces said they had recently moved Mr. Mertens to the village under close guard while negotiations continued.

    “We thought Indonesia had good intentions… but Jakarta carried out violent bombings,” said Sebby Sambum, a spokesman for the group. .

    Noticeably more solemn than in previous pro-life videos, a bearded Mr. Mertens could be seen with his hands behind his back as fighters next to him brandished guns, spears, bows and arrows.< /p>

    p>

    He called the military action life-threatening as he demanded that foreign countries talk to Indonesia and asked them to stop the air strikes.

    Mr Sammbum said helicopters and drones had been deployed in Kwiyawagi, an area previously considered a safe zone for civilians.

    A Papuan child aged 13 was one of the Intensifying fighting this week killed two civilians, Mr. Sambum said.

    Photos taken by the group showed several Papuans killed and wounded. They could not be independently verified.

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