Luferchek said the men, who were carrying assault rifles and guns, suddenly emerged from some bushes soon after he landed the aircraft belonging to the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) around 9.30 a.m. local time, Papua police chief, Insp.Gen.Paulus Waterpauw, informed journalists here on Friday.
According to Luferchek, several residents who saw the armed men walking towards the aircraft fled for safety, Waterpauw said.
The American pilot was reportedly ordered by the armed men to disembark from the utility aircraft. They pointed their rifles and guns at him and ordered him to sit on the ground, Waterpauw informed.
Shortly afterwards, they unloaded the aircraft’s cargo and then vandalized and set the plane ablaze, he said adding, the 32-year-old pilot managed to escape the attackers.
Luferchek walked for about three hours before he reached a church complex in Togai village, Waterpauw said.
On Thursday (January 7, 2021), the pilot was picked up by another helicopter, which was piloted by Nathan Fagerlie, also an American citizen, he informed.
Fagerlie also works for the MAF, he said.
Police in Nabire and Intan Jaya districts of Papua province have launched a probe into the torching of the MAF aircraft.
Nabire district police officers have been coordinating with their colleagues from the Intan Jaya police precinct to conduct a field investigation at the crime scene, according to Papua police spokesperson Sen.Coms. AM Kamal.
However, the crime scene — the airstrip in Pagamba village in Mbiandoga subdistrict — can only be reached by air, Kamal said on Thursday evening.
Luferchek was questioned by police before he was flown to Jayapura by the MAF, he informed.
Luferchek took off from the Nabire Airport for Pagamba village's airstrip at 9 a.m. local time on Wednesday.
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About 30 minutes later, he reported to the MAF office that his plane had landed safely at Pagamba village with two passengers onboard, Kamal said.
The incident is the latest in a spate of attacks in Intan Jaya, which recorded its bloodiest month in September, 2020, with armed groups launching several attacks in the area that claimed the lives of two soldiers and two civilians and left two others injured. (INE)
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