Indonesian military ready to free hostages in PNG

Indonesian military ready to free hostages in PNG
PHOTO: AFP

Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said that the Indonesian Military had been given an order to be on standby near the country's border with Papua Nugini (PNG) in case an emergency situation should arise in the efforts to free two Papua residents currently being held hostage by an unnamed criminal group.

Retno also said that Jakarta was ready to assist the PNG government in its efforts to release the two hostages.

"[PNG's] efforts to release the hostages have yet to succeed. We have conveyed a message to the PNG government that we are ready to engage in co-operation to expedite the release," Retno said.

Later on Thursday, President Joko "Jokowi' Widodo said that the Indonesian government was ready to assist authorities in PNG to bring to an end the hostage situation.

"The point is that we are ready to assist in the effort the release the hostages. But, we will only act when PNG grants us permission. If there is no permission, we can't do that," Jokowi told reporters at the Presidential Palace on Thursday.

Jokowi said, however, that he had not set a deadline for the release, arguing that Indonesia must respect the territorial sovereignty of PNG.

The President also revealed his plan to call PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill later on Thursday.

Foreign Minister Retno said she was maintaining intensive communication with Port Moresby and the Indonesian mission in Vanimo in her efforts to secure the release the two hostages.

Retno also dismissed a rumour that the two Indonesians had already been shot dead by the criminal group. "No, there is not yet [any official information regarding the rumour]," she said.

An unnamed criminal group, previously thought to be a splinter cell of the Free Papua Movement (OPM), is currently holding captive two Indonesian loggers, 28-year-old Sudirman and 30-year-old Badar, somewhere in PNG.

The group reportedly demanded swapping the hostages with two prisoners detained by the Keerom Police in Papua for minor drug charges. The Indonesian government has refused, declaring that any deal with the abductors would not be entertained.

The two men were taken across the border by the armed group into PNG following a shooting incident in Skoupro hamlet, Keerom, where another woodcutter, 38-year-old Kuba Marmahu, was shot in the head, while another person escaped. Kuba is currently being treated at Jayapura's Bhayangkara Hospital.

Meanwhile, the Papua Police claimed that they had yet to determine the motive behind the abduction.

Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Paulus Waterpauw said on Thursday that after communicating with the Indonesian Consul in Vanimo, Elmar Lubis, it was understood that the two hostages had been moved from the location where authorities had initially suspected they were being held captive.

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