Jakarta [Indonesia], February 9 (ANI): A rescue operation is on to evacuate Kiwi pilot Philip Mehrtens, who was allegedly taken hostage by separatist fighters in Indonesia's Papua region, The Jakarta Post reported.
The joint search and rescue operation was carried out by National Police and the Indonesian Military (TNI) under the codename "Peaceful Carstensz" in an effort to locate the pilot.
Mehrtens was "secured" alongside five passengers after landing on an airstrip in the Papuan highlands.
As per the Jakarta Post, the whereabouts of Mehrtens, a pilot employed by the frontier airline carrier Susi Air, were still unclear due to conflicting information issued on Wednesday.
Earlier, on Tuesday, New Zealand Herald reported that Mehrtens was held hostage by a separatist group in Papua while flying a plane for Susi Air carrying five passengers, including a baby, yesterday from Mozes Kilangin Airport in Mimika, in Central Papua, to Paro Airport in Nduga.
The area is a highly militarised district with a long history of insurgency in the newly named Highland Papua province, a Papua police spokesman said.
According to New Zealand Herald, Mehrtens was described as a "quiet and serious" man fluent in Bahasa.
Mehrtens is married to a woman of Indonesian descent and had been living in her home country.
In a tweet, Susi Air founder Susi Pudjiastuti asked for support and prayed for the pilot's safety.
"Of late, the younger generation is more violent," Susi Air tweeted.
"In my opinion, they won't harm him, they are just trying to get their story out. My concern is about the Indonesian military. When they would go in full force that might cause Phil harm than the separatist group," it added.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) also said it provided consular support to the Mehrtens family and said it wouldn't comment further because of privacy reasons, according to New Zealand Herald.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said he had been given preliminary details and said the New Zealand embassy in Indonesia was working to help free Mehrtens. (ANI)