Jakarta (ANTARA) - Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) Commander Admiral Yudo Margono has affirmed that negotiation will remain the main strategy for freeing Susi Air pilot Mark Mehrtens, who is being held hostage by Papuan separatists.

The New Zealander pilot was abducted by an armed separatist group affiliated with the Free Papua Movement and led by Egianus Kogoya on February 7, 2023. The group also torched the Susi Air Pilatus Porter PC 6 aircraft he was piloting after landing at Paro Airfield, Nduga District, Papua Highlands Province.

At the Police Headquarters here on Friday, Margono said the military believes that violence or an armed approach would not be the best strategy for rescuing Mehrtens. The Indonesian Government also shares the same view, he added.

"Yes, we are keen to avoid armed violence because it will harm the people. Hence, we are persisting on negotiation efforts through religious and public figures," he informed.

He said the instruction to prioritize negotiations has been conveyed to the regional authorities through the Cendrawasih Regional Military Commander and the III Joint Regional Defense Commander.

He also asked residents to be patient while waiting for the negotiation—which is currently being conducted by the acting head of Papua Highlands' Nduga District—to come to fruition.

Earlier, Kogoya had threatened to execute the New Zealander pilot if the Indonesian Government refused to negotiate with his group.

He set July 1, 2023, as the deadline for his demand.

At present, officers from the joint police-military task force are continuing their search mission for the abducted pilot in Nduga District.

On June 16, 2023, Papua Police Chief Inspector General Mathius Fakhiri said his side believes the armed group and Mehrtens are somewhere on the border between Nduga and Lanny Jaya Districts.

Related news: Susi Air plane burning incident: One separatist detained
Related news: Police widen search for Susi Air pilot to Yahukimo, Puncak

Translator: Genta Tenri M, Nabil Ihsan
Editor: Rahmad Nasution
Copyright © ANTARA 2023