Indonesian soldiers killed in Papuan separatist raid – the Diplomat
ASEAN Beat | Politics | South East Asia
The attack, which claimed the lives of four soldiers, was the deadliest to take place in the region this year.
Papuan separatist rebels killed four government soldiers and injured two others in a raid on a military post on September 2 before dawn, Indonesian military officials said.
Dozens of assailants believed to be from the West Papua National Liberation Army (WPNLA), the military wing of the Free Papua Organization, stormed a post in the Maybrat regency and attacked six soldiers with arrows, machetes and other basic weapons, Hendra Pesireron, the spokesperson for the West Papua Regional Military Command, said in a statement.
As the provincial military commander, Major General I Nyoman Cantiasa, said in a separate press conference: “About 30 or more people suspected of being separatist terrorists armed with machetes attacked the post in the early hours. Thursday, resulting in the death of four members of the Indonesian army and two others wounded with knives. Cantiasa added that he had deployed two platoons of soldiers “to hunt down the group” responsible for the attacks.
WPNLA spokesman Sebby Sambom quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, the deadliest against state security forces this year in West Papua, one of two provinces that make up the volatile Papua region in the east of Indonesia.
“Our activists under the Supreme Commander of the West Papua Liberation Army Goliath Tabuni are responsible for the attack this morning,” he said in a statement yesterday. Sambom called on the government to negotiate with the Papua Free Organization (OPM). Otherwise, “The war will not end,” he added. “This will continue in Papua as long as Indonesia still occupies (Papuan) land.”
The attack follows the murder of two construction workers in Yahukimo’s regency, whose bodies were burned near a bridge project on August 23. Earlier this week, police arrested four suspected WPNLA members for the murders.
Papua was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 on the basis of a UN-sponsored referendum – the Free Choice Act – which Papuan nationalists say is very far from free. Since then, a low-intensity insurgency has persisted in the region, erupting periodically in response to the exploitation of the region’s rich natural resources and the transmigration of thousands of people from other parts of the archipelago.
The situation in Papua has become increasingly tense in recent years, as separatist forces have launched violent and daring attacks against soldiers and civilians they accuse of facilitating the occupation of the region, resulting in a brutal and disproportionate response from the Indonesian military.
In November, the United Nations Regional Office for Human Rights expressed concern over the upsurge in violence and arrests that have taken place since 2018. “Military and security forces have been strengthened in the region and reports of the use of force, arrest and continued harassment and intimidation of protesters and human rights defenders, ”the UN statement read.
The situation has worsened since April, when separatist fighters ambushed and killed Brig. General Gusti Putu Danny Nugraha, head of the Indonesian intelligence agency in the Eastern Province. The assassination led the government to officially designate the Papuan separatists “terrorists” and to deploy additional troops in the region.
The campaign has resulted in deaths on both sides, dozens of arrests and the massive displacement of Papuan villagers caught in the midst of the conflict. Then, in July, Jakarta renewed and amended a special autonomy law that local activists say will increase Jakarta’s grip on the troubled but resource-rich region.