After killing rebels in Papua, Indonesia pledges more crackdowns

Pizaro Gozali Idrus
After killing rebels in Papua, Indonesia pledges more crackdowns Indonesian security forces remove one of five West Papua National Liberation Army members killed during a gunfight with security troops in Modusit village, Papua HIghlands province, Indonesia, Oct. 2, 2023.
Papua Regional Police

Indonesian security forces vowed to keep hunting for rebels who seek to establish an independent state in the restive region of Papua after government forces killed five suspected insurgents over the weekend. 

The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), an insurgent group, promised retaliation as it accused state forces of killing the fighters while they were asleep.

The bodies of the five rebels were retrieved Monday by a joint force of military and police units after an alleged gunfight two days earlier in Pegunungan Bintang, a regency in Papua Highlands province, police spokesman Ignatius Benny Ady Prabowo said.

“The military and police will intensify their pursuit of the armed criminal group that always disturbs the public and disrupts the security situation,” Benny said in a statement.

One of those killed Saturday was identified as Otobius Bidana Mimin, 38, a local rebel commander wanted by authorities for allegedly taking part in a deadly attack on a civilian facility two years ago, said Bayu Suseno, spokesman for the Joint Task Force for Peaceful Cartenz. The military and police unit operates in Papua.

“We are still hunting down other members of the armed criminal group,” Bayu told BenarNews.

The TPNPB is the armed wing of a separatist movement that has been fighting for independence from Indonesia since the 1960s.

It has been active in several areas of Papua, especially in the central highlands, where it attacked security forces and civilians accused of spying for the government.

The group’s spokesman, Sebby Sambom, said the five rebels were killed despite showing no resistance and that the raid was a collaboration between the military and native informants.

“TPNPB will retaliate because the five members were not resisting, but were surrounded while sleeping and killed,” he told BenarNews via WhatsApp.

The rebels were in a house in Modusit village when the military and police surrounded and attacked with snipers and other troops, Sambom said.

“The bodies of the fallen TPNPB members were mutilated like animals,” he alleged.

Sambom’s group grabbed headlines after a unit in Nduga regency abducted a New Zealand pilot working for an Indonesian domestic airline on Feb. 7.

The spokesman declined to give details about the pilot, noting the New Zealand government had not been willing to negotiate with his group.

In August, New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins urged the rebels to release the pilot, Philip Mehrtens, immediately.

Benny, the police spokesman, said officials have been informed that Mehrtens was alive and well.

The Papua region has a history of documented and alleged human rights violations by Indonesian security forces and police, while separatist rebels have been accused of committing violence against civilians.

In 1963, Indonesian forces invaded Papua, a former Dutch colony like Indonesia, and annexed it.

In 1969, the United Nations sponsored a referendum where only about 1,000 people voted.

Despite accusations that the vote was a farce, the U.N. recognized the outcome, effectively endorsing Indonesia’s control over Papua.

Violence has surged in recent years after rebels killed at least 19 road workers in 2018. 

Theo Hesegem, director of the Papua Justice and Human Integrity Foundation, expressed concern about the renewed cycle of violence and called for dialogue between security forces and rebels through a neutral third party.

“We don’t want more bloodshed to happen,” he told BenarNews. “We want Papua to be safe and for people to live peacefully.”

Nazarudin Latif in Jakarta contributed to the report.


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