Gunmen killed three civilians and injured two others Monday soon after shooting at a plane carrying police who were to oversee elections later this week in a remote area of eastern Indonesia’s Papua province, officials said.
Papua police spokesman Ahmad Mustafa Kamal said the civilians, identified as vendors, were killed after the plane landed in the Keneyam airport in Nduga district. The pilot was one of the two people who were injured.
“We could not confirm the number of victims in detail as communication is difficult there,” Kamal told reporters in the provincial capital, Jayapura.
Police alleged that the attackers were members of the “Armed Civilians Criminal Group” (KKB) – the name Indonesian police use for the Free Papua Organization (OPM), an independence movement group.
“They divided themselves into two groups. One went into the hills and the other went to the outskirts of the airport close to community activities where they shot the civilians,” Kamal said.
Army spokesman Col. Muhammad Aidi also named KKB as the attackers.
Papua, a former Dutch colony, has been the scene of insurgent attacks since it was absorbed into Indonesia in 1969. The U.S.-based mining giant, Freeport-McMoran, operates the Grasberg gold and copper mining complex in the province.
Second plane attack
The plane carrying 15 police mobile brigade personnel, who were assigned to a security detail during regional elections on Wednesday, departed from Papua’s Wamena airport.
The shooting was the second targeting an airplane in Papua in three days.
On Friday, a Dimonim Air plane carrying 16 civilian passengers and a police officer was shot at while landing at the same airport, injuring its co-pilot. No group has claimed responsibility for the aircraft shootings.
Emus Gwijangge, a member of the Papuan People’s Legislative Assembly (DPRP), told BenarNews he had not been able to confirm the deaths.
“Yes, there was the shooting of the plane. I am still gathering more information about the casualties,” he said.
Not all attackers were armed with guns, according to a source who asked to remain anonymous.
“There are many people carrying arrows, axes and spears,” the source said.
Those killed were identified as migrant traders from South Sulawesi province, including a husband and wife, who were shot and stabbed as the attackers fled the airport, the Associated Press reported.
The company that operates planes transporting ballots and other election materials has considered stopping flights until safety can be assured, Wamena Airport official Freddy Halattu said.
“They will stop flying to some locations if security is not guaranteed,” he told reporters at on Monday.