Australian Foreign Minister Strongly Condemns Susi Air Pilot Hostage-taking

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong has responded to recent violence in Papua. The Indonesian National Army (TNI) has imposed a combat alert in the province, following last week’s tension with the Armed Criminal Group (KKB).

In a tweet on Tuesday, 18 April 2023, the Foreign Minister stated “Australia is deeply concerned by recent reports of violence in Indonesia’s Papua Province. We unequivocally condemn the actions of the hostage-takers, and hope for a swift, safe and peaceful resolution”.

At a press conference in Timika, Papua, TNI Commander Admiral Yudo Margono satted that the combat alert status in Papua was imposed after the KKB attack on the Raider 321/Galuh Taruna Infantry Battalion in Mugi-Mam District, Nduga, on 15 April 2023.

The incident occurred amid efforts to rescue New Zealand Susi Air pilot Philip Marthens, who was taken hostage on 7 February 2023.  To date, Marthens has yet to be released. The West Papua National Liberation Army-Organisation of Free Papua (TPNPB-OPM) KKB has threatened to continue waging terror attacks if Indonesia continues attempts to rescue the Susi Air pilot.

“Considering the conditions, especially in certain areas we turn it into a combat alert operation,” Yudo said on Tuesday, 18 April 2023. On the same occasion, Yudo noted that the imposition of this status was similar to that carried out by the TNI in the Natuna area.

The KKB on Saturday said it had killed nine Indonesian soldiers the previous day after claiming Jakarta had not responded to peace efforts. The TNI said one of its troops was killed.

Yudo said the incident in Nduga began when the task force conducted patrols after hearing rumours about Philip’s whereabouts. The task force set out in the hope of negotiating for the release of the New Zealand pilot.

New Zealand has stated that Marthens’ safety remains Wellington’s top priority, following Jakarta’s decision to impose a combat alert status for Papua.

“We are doing everything we can to secure a peaceful resolution and safe release for Marthens,” a New Zealand Foreign Ministry spokesman said in an electronic message to Tempo on Tuesday, 18 April 2023.

“(This) includes liaising with Indonesian authorities and deploying New Zealand consular staff.”

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