In­done­sian forces lo­cate bod­ies of 16 peo­ple killed in Pa­pua

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Asean Focus -

SE­CU­RITY forces have lo­cated the bod­ies of 16 peo­ple and a sol­dier who were killed in one of the blood­i­est sep­a­ratist at­tacks in In­done­sia’s restive Pa­pua prov­ince, a mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said Thurs­day.

Army he­li­copters trans­ported eight bod­ies and eight sur­vivors, in­clud­ing a 4-year-old boy, from a remote moun­tain­ous vil­lage in Nduga dis­trict, Pa­pua prov­ince, mil­i­tary spokesman Col. Muham­mad Aidi said. Gun­fire be­tween se­cu­rity forces and an armed group linked to the Free Pa­pua Move­ment was ham­per­ing ef­forts to re­cover the eight other bod­ies, he said.

The area is a strong­hold of sep­a­ratists who have bat­tled In­done­sian rule in the im­pov­er­ished re­gion for half a cen­tury.

Po­lice ear­lier said 31 work­ers and a sol­dier were killed Sun­day when gun­men stormed a gov­ern­ment con­struc­tion pro­ject in a remote vil­lage in Nduga dis­trict, cit­ing re­ports from wit­nesses.

Au­thor­i­ties on Wed­nes­day re­vised the fig­ure to 19 civil­ians, in­clud­ing work­ers, and a sol­dier, based on the ac­counts of sur­vivors.

Se­cu­rity forces on Tues­day res­cued 12 sur­vivors, in­clud­ing five in­jured con­struc­tion work­ers.

A foren­sic team at a hospi­tal in the moun­tain min­ing town of Timika was de­ter­min­ing whether the eight bod­ies were those of other con­struc­tion work­ers em­ployed by PT. Is­taka Karya, a state-owned con­struc­tion com­pany, is build­ing bridges on a sec­tion of the trans-pa­pua road net­work that will con­nect cities and dis­tricts in the prov­ince.

In­done­sia’s gov­ern­ment, which for decades had a pol­icy of send­ing Ja­vanese and other In­done­sians to set­tle in Pa­pua, is now try­ing to spur eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment to dampen the sep­a­ratist move­ment.

The work­ers are con­sid­ered out­siders by the sep­a­ratists.

“We are still search­ing for the bod­ies of other civil­ians pos­si­bly killed by the armed group,” Aidi told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

He said the body of a sol­dier who was shot Mon­day when an armed group at­tacked a mil­i­tary post in Mbua vil­lage in the same dis­trict has been flown to Sorong in neigh­bour­ing West Pa­pua prov­ince for a mil­i­tary funeral.

A spokesman for the West Pa­pua Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army, the mil­i­tary wing of the Free Pa­pua Move­ment, could not be reached for com­ment.

In­done­sian Pres­i­dent Joko “Jokowi” Wi­dodo ex­pressed his con­do­lences to the fam­i­lies of the vic­tims on Wed­nes­day and or­dered the mil­i­tary and po­lice to ar­rest the per­pe­tra­tors of the worst sep­a­ratist at­tacks dur­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“There is no place for th­ese armed crim­i­nal groups in Pa­pua or the rest of the coun­try,” Wi­dodo said at the pres­i­den­tial palace in Jakarta.

He said the at­tack would not dis­suade his gov­ern­ment from con­tin­u­ing to de­velop Pa­pua, in­clud­ing the con­struc­tion of the 4,600-kilo­me­tre trans-pa­pua road, which his ad­min­is­tra­tion has claimed was widely sup­ported by lo­cal peo­ple.

The road, which will stretch from Sorong in West Pa­pua prov­ince to Mer­auke in Pa­pua prov­ince, is ex­pected to be com­pleted next year and help boost eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in both prov­inces. – As­so­ci­ated Press

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