Updated at 4:59 p.m. ET on 2020-08-17
Government security forces in Indonesia’s Papua province killed two suspected separatist rebels and arrested another during a raid on their hideout, a police spokesman said Friday.
The raid by a joint team of police and soldiers on Thursday in Mimika regency followed the arrest of six people suspected of delivering supplies to insurgents, Papua police spokesman Ahmad Musthofa Kamal said.
Those killed and arrested were members of a rebel faction linked to the March 30 killing of a New Zealander who worked at the nearby Grasberg gold and copper mine operated by U.S.-based Freeport-McMoRan Inc., he said.
“Decisive action has been taken against armed criminals who carried out the shootings at the PT Freeport Indonesia office complex in Kuala Kencana,” Kamal said in a statement to BenarNews.
“During the gunfight, two members of the armed criminal group died and one person with the initials I.S. was arrested,” Kamal said, referring to the killings of the rebel suspects.
New Zealand national Graeme Thomas Wall was the lone fatality, and two other Freeport employees, both Indonesians, were injured in last week’s attack. Hendrik Wanmang, a commander of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), said his group was responsible for the shootings.
Kamal said police confiscated homemade weapons, 162 bullets, dozens of arrows, bows and three Morning Star separatist flags after Thursday’s raid.
A TPNPB spokesman, Sebby Sambom, cast doubt on police claims about that the Mimika incident involved his group.
“According to preliminary reports we have received, those killed and arrested were civilians,” Sebby told BenarNews.
“But we will wait for confirmation from the TPNPB leadership in Timika,” he said, referring to the Mimika regency’s capital city.
No response to ceasefire offer
This week, the rebel group proposed a ceasefire with Indonesian forces to allow both sides to focus on the coronavirus pandemic.
Sebby said his group was willing to implement a ceasefire provided that the Indonesian government withdrew troops and police reinforcements from the province.
There has been no response from Indonesian authorities to the offer, which followed an appeal by United Nations Secretary-General of António Guterres, he said.
“If Indonesia does not want to take up our offer, there’s no problem. We were following the call of the U.N. secretary-general and that is a plus for the TPNPB in the eyes of the international community,” Sebby said.
He said if there was no ceasefire agreement, his army would continue with attacks on various targets, including Freeport Indonesia.
“A large influx of refugees to neighboring Papua, New Guinea, will be inevitable because these areas are becoming increasingly insecure,” he said.
Papua and West Papua, a region on Papua Island at the far eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago, has seen a low-level separatist conflict since the 1960s.
The region was rocked by weeks of violence in August and September 2019 after news about allegations that security forces on Java Island had mistreated Papuan students ignited mass protests. The unrest left more than 40 people dead.
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the name Hendrik Wanmang.