Papua rebels claim responsibility for deadly attack on Indonesian military post

Victor Mambor
2022.03.28
Jayapura, Indonesia
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Papua rebels claim responsibility for deadly attack on Indonesian military post Indonesian troops in Timika carry the coffins of two marines who were killed in an attack by separatist rebels in Kenyam, a district of Nduga regency in Indonesia’s Papua province, March 28, 2022.
AFP

Separatist rebels in Indonesia’s Papua province claimed responsibility for killing two government troops and injuring eight others in a weekend attack, which involved the use of a grenade launcher, according to Indonesian authorities.

The attack on a military post took place Saturday in Nduga, a mountainous regency where insurgents had killed 19 construction workers in 2018. It followed the killings of eight phone company workers in a rebel attack in Puncak, another highland regency, in early March.

A rebel commander asked the United Nations to intervene in the ongoing conflict in Indonesia’s easternmost region, where press freedom is limited and much of the violence takes place in isolated, remote areas.

“We are responsible for the shootings,” Egianus Kogeya, commander of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) in Nduga, said in a statement released on Sunday.

Kogeya threatened to attack anyone who supported the Indonesian government’s development programs in Papua.

“I will not compromise even if it’s my family, my brother, my sister, my mother, or my father who brings the development programs of the colonial government of the Republic of Indonesia,” he said.

Kogeya said the Indonesian government should open up Papua to allow in international journalists and fact-finding teams.

“We call on the United Nations to intervene in the Land of Papua because the crimes against humanity by the colonial government of the Republic of Indonesia against indigenous Papuans are becoming more and more blatant,” Kogeya said.

The rebel group had also claimed responsibility for killing the eight telecommunications workers in Puncak nearly three weeks ago.

In a statement at the time, the group demanded the Indonesian government revoke a permit for a planned gold mine in an area called the Wabu Block in neighboring Intan Jaya regency as well as close the giant Grasberg mine operated by U.S.-based Freeport McMoRan.

The TPNPB, earlier on, had said it was behind an attack that killed 19 members of a highway construction crew and a soldier in Nduga in December 2018.

In a report released last week, human rights group Amnesty International said there had been a dramatic increase in violence in Intan Jaya in the past two years, including cases of extrajudicial killings and greater movement restrictions that targeted indigenous Papuans.  

Amnesty urged Indonesian authorities to halt the gold mine plan, saying it could fuel conflict and violate the land rights of indigenous Papuans.  

Grenade launcher

On Saturday, rebels under Kogeya’s command used a grenade launcher as they attacked a military post manned by Indonesian marines, officials said. Two marines, identified as Lt. Mohamad Iqbal and First Pvt. Wilson Anderson suffered fatal injuries, according to Lt. Col. Candra Kurniawan, a spokesman for the provincial military command.

Iqbal died on Saturday and Wilson died in the early hours of Sunday, Candra said.

Sr. Commissioner Budhiarta, the police chief in Nduga, said Kogeya’s forces were heavily armed, with about 30 members and 27 firearms, including a grenade launcher.

“What we know is that they also have two sniper rifles, about 15 assault rifles and some homemade firearms,” Budiartha told BenarNews.

Budhiarta said he suspected that police or military deserters had taught the Kogeya group to use grenade launchers.

The rebels disappeared into the jungles after the attack on the marine post.

Six wounded military personnel were transported to the town of Timika and were being treated at the general hospital there, said Candra, the provincial military spokesman. Two of them were still listed in critical condition as of Monday.

The other two were treated at a marine health facility in Nduga because their injuries were not life-threatening, he said.

Candra said the bodies of Iqbal and Wilson were flown to Kendari, in Southeast Sulawesi, and to Kupang, in East Nusa Tenggara, respectively, to be buried by their families.

Brig. Gen. Izak Pangemanan, a military commander in Jayapura, the provincial capital, said that troops in Kenyam – the district of Nduga where Saturday’s attack occurred – were on alert but not actively pursuing rebels.

“If attacked, we will respond with full force,” Izak told BenarNews.

No time for UN mediation

In early 2018, the Indonesian government said it would allow Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, then the U.N.’s high commissioner for human rights, to visit Papua. 

That visit never materialized, with the Indonesian government accusing the United Nations human rights office in Bangkok of not cooperating on a mutually agreed timetable. 

Beka Ulung Hapsara, a member of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said he did not think that U.N. mediation was necessary in Papua.

“We haven’t thought about that,” Tempo.co quoted Beka as saying.

“Our focus right now is to maximize the national mechanism and the mandate given to Komnas HAM,” he said.

Since the 1960s, Papua has been home to a separatist insurgency, while the country’s security forces have been accused of human rights abuses in counter-insurgency operations.

In 1963, Indonesian forces invaded Papua – like Indonesia, a former Dutch colony – and annexed the region that makes up the western half of New Guinea Island.

Papua was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 after a United Nations-sponsored vote, which locals and activists said was a sham because it involved only about 1,000 people. However, the U.N. accepted the result, essentially endorsing Jakarta’s rule.

In 2003 the Indonesian government divided the western half of New Guinea Island into two provinces – Papua and West Papua.

Separatist rebels in Indonesia’s Papua province claimed responsibility for killing two government troops and injuring eight others in a weekend attack, which involved the use of a grenade launcher, according to Indonesian authorities.

The attack on a military post took place Saturday in Nduga, a mountainous regency where insurgents had killed 19 construction workers in 2018. It followed the killings of eight phone company workers in a rebel attack in Puncak, another highland regency, in early March.

A rebel commander asked the United Nations to intervene in the ongoing conflict in Indonesia’s easternmost region, where press freedom is limited and much of the violence takes place in isolated, remote areas.

“We are responsible for the shootings,” Egianus Kogeya, commander of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) in Nduga, said in a statement released on Sunday.

Kogeya threatened to attack anyone who supported the Indonesian government’s development programs in Papua.

“I will not compromise even if it’s my family, my brother, my sister, my mother, or my father who brings the development programs of the colonial government of the Republic of Indonesia,” he said.

Kogeya said the Indonesian government should open up Papua to allow in international journalists and fact-finding teams.

“We call on the United Nations to intervene in the Land of Papua because the crimes against humanity by the colonial government of the Republic of Indonesia against indigenous Papuans are becoming more and more blatant,” Kogeya said.

The rebel group had also claimed responsibility for killing the eight telecommunications workers in Puncak nearly three weeks ago.

In a statement at the time, the group demanded the Indonesian government revoke a permit for a planned gold mine in an area called the Wabu Block in neighboring Intan Jaya regency as well as close the giant Grasberg mine operated by U.S.-based Freeport McMoRan.

The TPNPB, earlier on, had said it was behind an attack that killed 19 members of a highway construction crew and a soldier in Nduga in December 2018.

In a report released last week, human rights group Amnesty International said there had been a dramatic increase in violence in Intan Jaya in the past two years, including cases of extrajudicial killings and greater movement restrictions that targeted indigenous Papuans.  

Amnesty urged Indonesian authorities to halt the gold mine plan, saying it could fuel conflict and violate the land rights of indigenous Papuans.  

Grenade launcher

On Saturday, rebels under Kogeya’s command used a grenade launcher as they attacked a military post manned by Indonesian marines, officials said. Two marines, identified as Lt. Mohamad Iqbal and First Pvt. Wilson Anderson suffered fatal injuries, according to Lt. Col. Candra Kurniawan, a spokesman for the provincial military command.

Iqbal died on Saturday and Wilson died in the early hours of Sunday, Candra said.

Sr. Commissioner Budhiarta, the police chief in Nduga, said Kogeya’s forces were heavily armed, with about 30 members and 27 firearms, including a grenade launcher.

“What we know is that they also have two sniper rifles, about 15 assault rifles and some homemade firearms,” Budiartha told BenarNews.

Budhiarta said he suspected that police or military deserters had taught the Kogeya group to use grenade launchers.

The rebels disappeared into the jungles after the attack on the marine post.

Six wounded military personnel were transported to the town of Timika and were being treated at the general hospital there, said Candra, the provincial military spokesman. Two of them were still listed in critical condition as of Monday.

The other two were treated at a marine health facility in Nduga because their injuries were not life-threatening, he said.

Candra said the bodies of Iqbal and Wilson were flown to Kendari, in Southeast Sulawesi, and to Kupang, in East Nusa Tenggara, respectively, to be buried by their families.

Brig. Gen. Izak Pangemanan, a military commander in Jayapura, the provincial capital, said that troops in Kenyam – the district of Nduga where Saturday’s attack occurred – were on alert but not actively pursuing rebels.

“If attacked, we will respond with full force,” Izak told BenarNews.

No time for UN mediation

In early 2018, the Indonesian government said it would allow Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, then the U.N.’s high commissioner for human rights, to visit Papua. 

That visit never materialized, with the Indonesian government accusing the United Nations human rights office in Bangkok of not cooperating on a mutually agreed timetable. 

Beka Ulung Hapsara, a member of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said he did not think that U.N. mediation was necessary in Papua.

“We haven’t thought about that,” Tempo.co quoted Beka as saying.

“Our focus right now is to maximize the national mechanism and the mandate given to Komnas HAM,” he said.

Since the 1960s, Papua has been home to a separatist insurgency, while the country’s security forces have been accused of human rights abuses in counter-insurgency operations.

In 1963, Indonesian forces invaded Papua – like Indonesia, a former Dutch colony – and annexed the region that makes up the western half of New Guinea Island.

Papua was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 after a United Nations-sponsored vote, which locals and activists said was a sham because it involved only about 1,000 people. However, the U.N. accepted the result, essentially endorsing Jakarta’s rule.

In 2003 the Indonesian government divided the western half of New Guinea Island into two provinces – Papua and West Papua. 

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