Jokowi to talk with Papua New Guinea on hostage situation

Jokowi to talk with Papua New Guinea on hostage situation
PHOTO: Reuters

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo is set to contact Papua New Guinea (PNG) Prime Minister Peter O'Neill regarding the release of two Indonesian citizens who have been taken hostage by a criminal group operating near the border between the two countries.

"I will contact the PNG prime minister to discuss the matter. Our foreign minister and the PNG foreign minister have communicated by phone this morning," said Jokowi on Thursday as quoted by Antara News agency.

Jokowi added that the release of the Indonesians would depend on the PNG government.

"Indonesia is ready to help with the release, but it must be with permission from the PNG government [since the situation is in PNG]," said Jokowi.

Separately, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi stated that rescue efforts were still being organised by a team at the location.

"At midnight, I communicated with the PNG foreign minister and commander as well as the PNG team on the location," said Retno on Thursday.

She added that the efforts had not yet succeeded, but that Indonesia had sent a message that it was ready to co-operate with PNG to accelerate the release process.

The two Indonesians, Sudirman, 28, and Badar, 30, are timber workers in Skofro hamlet, Keerom regency, Papua. The criminal group has been holding them hostage since Wednesday, asking in return for the release of two people currently being detained by the Keerom Police in relation to charges involving marijuana.

Previously, TNI spokesperson Maj. Gen. Endang Sodik has said that PNG authorities had met with the group to negotiate possible solutions.

"The group demanded that they be able to exchange the hostages with their two comrades being detained at Keerom Police station for drug possession," said Sodik.

The police and TNI claim that the group is part of the Free Papua Organisation (OPM) led by Jeffry Pagawak.

"Jeffry's group is a new criminal group that creates terror in Jayapura and Keerom," said Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Paulus Waterpauw.

The group has reportedly carried out several terrorist acts in Papua, including attacking a police station in 2012.

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