Indonesian army says 3 soldiers killed in clash in Papua
Separatist gunmen opened fire on a military post in Indonesia’s most restive province of Papua, killing three soldiers and seriously wounding another
JAYAPURA, Indonesia –– Separatist gunmen opened fire on a military post in Indonesia’s Papua province on Thursday, killing three soldiers and seriously wounding another, according to the army and the rebels.
Attackers from the West Papua Liberation Army, the military wing of the Free Papua Organization, led the assault at dawn during a changing of the guard in the hilly district of Puncak, a stronghold separatists who have fought Indonesian rule in mineral-rich but poor regions since the early 1960s.
Military spokesman Colonel Aqsha Erlangga said the gunmen fled into the jungle after the soldiers returned fire. The rebels launched a second attack as troops evacuated a wounded soldier who later died on the way to a clinic, he said.
Rebel spokesman Sebby Sambom, in a statement sent to The Associated Press, confirmed that the group’s fighters carried out the attack, which he said lasted more than four hours. He said there were no deaths on the rebel side.
“It’s part of our struggle for independence,” Sambom said. “Our leaders have called on all combatants in our 34 defense regions to continue the war throughout Papua territory.”
The shooting is the latest in a series of violent incidents in recent years in Papua, a former Dutch colony in the western part of New Guinea that is ethnically and culturally distinct from much of Indonesia. Conflicts between indigenous Papuans and Indonesian security forces are frequent.
Papua was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969, after a UN-sponsored ballot that was widely seen as a sham. Since then, a low-level insurgency has been simmering in the region, which is divided into two provinces, Papua and West Papua.
Rebel attacks have increased over the past year, killing dozens of rebels, security forces and civilians.
Authorities’ data collected by the AP showed that at least 30 Indonesian soldiers have been killed in clashes between rebels and security forces in the past two years, including four this year alone.