Jayapura, Papua (ANTARA) - The search for a Susi Air pilot taken hostage by an armed Papuan separatist group (KKB) led by Egianus Kogoya has now been extended to Yahukimo and Puncak Districts.

"The search for the New Zealand pilot (Captain Philip Mark Merthens) who has been held hostage since February 7 (2023) has been extended to Yahukimo district," head of the Damai Cartenz Operation, Senior Commissioner Faizal Rahmadani, said in Jayapura on Saturday.

The range of the search has been expanded because the areas are interconnected, he explained. Earlier, the search was focused on Nduga and Lanny Jaya districts.

Rahmadani informed that several efforts have been carried out to rescue the pilot, including involving a negotiating team comprising Nduga district community leaders who have been deployed by the acting head of Nduga district. However, the negotiation has not yielded any results.

Even so, the National Police (Polri) and the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) will continue their efforts to find and free the pilot, he assured.

Captain Merthens was taken hostage shortly after the plane he was manning landed at the Paro airfield and was set on fire by KKB.

"Egianus Kogoya and several of his members were detected in Koyawage, Lanny Jaya District, but when TNI-Polri officers arrived, he and his members were nowhere to be seen and allegedly returned to Nduga," Rahmadani informed.

One of the reasons that have hampered efforts to rescue Captain Merthens has been the extensive area of the search, which is spread across four districts in Highlands Papua, which is around 35,378 square kilometers, he said. Therefore, it will take time to find the pilot.

In addition, Kogoya has a track record of murder. Thus, Rahmadani and his team will need to be careful regarding the death threat issued by Kogoya.

Rahmadani said that the safety of Captain Merthens is a priority for his team.

"Usually, Kogoya does not just bluff and will do what he says. We must be careful with this case," he added.

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Translator: Evarukdijati, Resinta S
Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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