Saturday, December 2, 2023

Papua Separatists Burn Plane, Take N. Zealand Pilot Hostage

February 7, 2023 | 6:12 pm
A Susi Air plane departs from Mimika to  Paro Airport, Nduga regency in the Indonesian eastern province of Papua on February 7, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Susi Air)
A Susi Air plane departs from Mimika to Paro Airport, Nduga regency in the Indonesian eastern province of Papua on February 7, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Susi Air)

Jakarta. Members of the separatist movement Free Papua Organization, or OPM, burned a small passenger plane carrying five passengers and took the pilot of New Zealand nationality hostage in Nduga regency on Tuesday.

The Pilatus Porter plane operated by Susi Air departed from Mimika in the Indonesian easternmost province of Papua at 05:33 a.m. local time (20:33 GMT on Monday) heading for Nduga, Papua Police Chief Insp. General Mathius Fakhiri told reporters.

According to reports, the plane arrived at Paro Airport at 06:26 a.m. local time.

“We received a report that a Susi Air plane was burned by the KKB on Paro Airport’s runway in Nduga regency,” Mathius said, using the Indonesian acronym for the armed criminal group the government uses to identify the separatists. 


The officer added that a joint team of the police and the military has been deployed to search and rescue the pilot and passengers.

A statement purportedly from the separatist group claimed responsibility for the attack and the capture of the pilot.

“The plane was burned for a sensible reason. We hold the pilot hostage and are taking him out,” according to the statement signed by purported OPM spokesman Sebby Sambom and sent to the media.  

“The TNI [Indonesian Military] and the Indonesian Police must not open fire at civilians or interrogate them because the plane was burned by us, the 3rd Command of the TPNPB (West Papua Liberation Army) of the OPM in Ndugama, Derakma under the leadership of Brig. Gen. Egianus Kogoya,” it said.

Sebby added that the group will not release the pilot until their demand for independence is recognized by Indonesia.

The Papua Police identify the pilot of flight SI-9368 as Philips Marthen, 37, but no more details are available. 

The five passengers, including a baby, are believed to be from the same family members. The adult passengers are identified as Demanus Gwijangge, Minda Gwijangge, Pelenus Gwijangge, and Meita Gwijangge.

Their fate is still unknown when the story was published.

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