We can just do military operations…but the community will be the victims
Jakarta (ANTARA) - Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) Commander Admiral Yudo Margono has said he is optimistic of the safe release of Susi Air pilot, Captain Philip Mark Mehrtens, who is being held hostage by an armed Papuan criminal group (KKB).

Mehrtens is currently being held by the KKB led by Egianus Kogoya.

"By God's willing, I am optimistic," Margono said in Jakarta on Wednesday.

It is hoped that Captain Mehrtens will survive if his release is secured through persuasion, he added. According to him, if a military operation is conducted to rescue the pilot, the KKB would not hesitate to shoot him.

"I have heard conversations saying that the TNI would be accused of killing Captain Mehrtens if we carry out a military scheme to rescue him," he informed.

The rescue of Captain Mehrtens through a military operation would also threaten the safety of the people, he said.

"We can just do military operations because we have the professional soldiers and the equipment but the community will be the victims," he added.

Therefore, he said he would prefer to use persuasion to save the Susi Air pilot, namely by establishing communication with religious and community leaders, as well as the local government.

He informed that community leaders and the acting head of Nduga Sub-district, Namia Gwijangge, have requested the TNI to be patient and refrain from military operations.

"This message came from the community leaders and the acting head of Nduga sub-district. (A) Military operation will bring greater loss to our community," he said.

Margono further said there is no deadline for rescuing Captain Mehrtens. Since the hostage-taking is different from other cases, rescue efforts cannot be carried out in a hurry.

"There is no target for how many days we must rescue him (in). Our target is that Captain Mehrtens is released safely with no harm to our community," he added.

On February 7, 2023, Captain Mehrtens was taken hostage by the KKB after landing a Pilatus Porter aircraft at Paro airport, Nduga Sub-district, Papua Mountains. The KKB also burned down the plane, which belonged to Susi Air.

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Translator: Fath Putra M, Resinta S
Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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