Jayapura, Papua (ANTARA) - The safety of the New Zealand pilot who is being held hostage by an armed separatist group (KKB) in Papua is the government’s top priority in efforts to rescue him, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) said.

"On Monday (March 20, 2023) evening, we had a meeting, among others, to discuss this matter (the effort to release the pilot)," he informed after inaugurating the Papua Youth Creative Hub (PYCH) building here on Tuesday.

The rescue mission is being carried out very carefully to ensure the pilot’s safety, he added.

"Please ask the TNI (Indonesia Defense Forces) commander and the Kapolri (national police chief) about (the details of) this issue," he said.

Earlier, at a press conference after a meeting on Monday evening, TNI Commander Admiral Yudo Margono said that his party has deployed troops to Papua to assist the police in maintaining security in the region.

"In addition to securing the (country’s) land and sea borders, TNI personnel are also supporting the police in carrying out law enforcement,” he added.

However, he said that there has been no addition to the military personnel in the region.

A KKB led by Egianus Kogoya burned down a Susi Air Pilatus Porter plane at an airfield in Paro Sub-district, Nduga District, Highland Papua Province, on February 7.

The aircraft was piloted by Captain Philip Mark Mehrtens and was carrying five passengers, identified as Demanus Gwijangge, Minda Gwijangge, Pelenus Gwijangge, Meita Gwijangge, and Wetina W. It was carrying luggage weighing 452 kilograms.

Mehrtens has been held hostage by the armed group since February 7.

The police, along with the Peace Cartenz Task Force, comprising the TNI, local government, and religious leaders, are prioritizing dialogue efforts for releasing the pilot, Head of the National Police's Public Relations Division Inspector General Dedi Prasetyo said.

“We still prioritize a soft approach of communication between the local government and KKB," he added.

The National Police has not set a time limit for the operation. However, law enforcement efforts are also being prepared and will be carried out in accordance with the suggestions made by the local government and religious leaders, he added.

Related news: Captured New Zealand pilot not part of separatist group: Susi Air

Translator: Evarukdijati, Uyu Liman
Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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