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Indonesian Military: Papuan Rebels Mount Deadly Attack on Soldiers

Victor Mambor and Ahmad Syamsudin
Jayapura, Indonesia and Jakarta
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Indonesian security forces stand guard at a military post in Yigi, a district of Nduga regency in Indonesia’s Papua province, Jan. 15, 2019.
Indonesian security forces stand guard at a military post in Yigi, a district of Nduga regency in Indonesia’s Papua province, Jan. 15, 2019.
[Victor Mambor/BenarNews]

Three government troops and at least one rebel were killed in a shootout Thursday when scores of guerrillas attacked soldiers who were guarding the construction of a major highway in far eastern Indonesia’s Papua province, the military said.

The attack in Nduga regency took place a few days after the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) announced the deployment of 600 additional soldiers to the area to safeguard the completion of the Trans-Papua Highway project. Construction was disrupted in early December when separatist rebels killed 19 members of a crew working on the project in Nduga, military officials said.

In Thursday morning’s incident, two dozen soldiers who were assigned to provide security for the project came under attack from a large group of rebels in Mugi, a district of Nduga, said Muhammad Aidi, spokesman for the Indonesian military command in Papua.

“There was a sudden attack by about 50-70 people armed with various weapons, including military-standard weapons and traditional weapons such as arrows and spears,” Aidi told BenarNews.

The body of one suspected insurgent was found on the site, but soldiers believed that more rebels may have died in the encounter because the insurgents had left weapons at the scene, Aidi said.

“We saw them carry their members who were shot,” he said.

Aidi said the attackers were believed to be members of a Papuan rebel faction led by Egianus Kagoya.

The group, which calls itself the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), claimed responsibility for killing the 19 construction workers three months ago. The rebels claimed at the time that the workers were members of the military’s engineering detachment.

TPBPB spokesman Sebby Sambom denied that any rebels were killed in Thursday’s clash.

He said fighting broke out after eight government soldiers interrogated a local named Amos Kogeya, and set fire to several traditional houses belonging to residents.

The blazes attracted the attention of TPNPB members, who immediately went to the location, Sebby said.

“We pursued TNI members. We received a report that five TNI members were killed in the clashes. On our side, no one was killed,” Sebby told BenarNews.

The dead body found by the soldiers belonged to a civilian, Sebby said, identifying him as 52-year-old farmer Amiri Nimiangge.

“The body has nothing to do with the gunfight,” Sebby added.

Elsewhere in the troubled mineral-rich province, an activist with the West Papua National Committee, Victor Yeimo, called for a referendum on self-determination in Papua to resolve the conflict peacefully.

“We are urging the U.N. Human Rights Commission to come Papua. Indonesia must have the political will so that the conflict in Papua can be resolved peacefully and democratically through a referendum,” Yeimo said.

Laurens Kadepa, a member of the Papuan legislative council, said soldiers faced a difficult situation because separatist rebels mixed in with the local population and had to deal with difficult terrain.

“I deplore the deaths of TNI members and civilians. This violent conflict must be stopped immediately,” Kadepa said.

Earlier this week, the military said it was sending 600 reinforcements to Nduga to resume construction of the Trans-Papua road, after work on the project was halted in the wake of the early December killings of the 19 workers. Following the incident and fighting that ensued then between Indonesian security forces and Papuan rebels, Jakarta sent 154 police and soldiers to Nduga.

The killings of the three soldiers on Thursday was the first insurgency-related fatality on the military’s side since a soldier was killed at Mapenduma airport in Nduga on Jan. 29, when rebels tried to shoot down an airplane carrying Indonesian officials.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Nduga residents still have not returned to their villages out of fear of being trapped in armed clashes between separatist groups and security forces.

A low-level separatist conflict has been taking place in Papua, a region where the population is predominantly Melanesian, since the 1960s.

Papua declared its independence from Dutch colonial rule on Dec. 1, 1961, but that was rejected by the Netherlands and later by Indonesia.

In 1963, Indonesian forces invaded the region and annexed it. In 1969, the region held a controversial referendum in which security forces had selected slightly more than 1,000 people to agree to Papua’s formal absorption into the archipelagic nation, according to human rights advocacy groups.

Comments (1)

Andrew Johnson

The shooting in December had to be expected. The locals have been objeting to the trans-Papua road project throughout construction, and a year ago Kompas TV published TNI (Indonesian military) statements that in response to locals leaving letters asking Indonesia to stop building this road, Indonesia sent more TNI troops to conduct "sweeping operations" against the locals.
Papua background:
West New Guinea (Papua) held national elections in January 1961 and in response to news in October 1961 of an American plan to force the Dutch to trade the people of Papua to Indonesia, the elected New Guinea Council wrote a manifesto of independence asking fellow Papuans to unite as West Papua under a new 'Morning Star flag'; the Dutch at request of the New Guinea Council rised the Morning Star next to their tri-colour flag on 1st December 1961.
Because US President Kennedy had not authorised the US to act on the scheme to get Indonesia into the Pacific territory of Papua, Indonesia launched an invasion to force the US to help Indonesia implement the scheme that Kennedy had not wanted to use. Under this scheme the US forced the Dutch to sign a UN agreement asking the UN to send UN troops to occupy & subjugate Papua, and proposed that the UN could then appoint Indonesia as a new administrator (master).
That agreement is commonly known as the 'New York Agreement' and has been authorised by UN General Assembly resolution 1752, which is how Pakistani UN troops received UN authority to enter Papua in 1962.

Mar 10, 2019 02:59 AM

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