In­done­sia hunts sus­pects in al­leged mass killing

Times of Oman - - WORLD -

WAMENA: In­done­sian sol­diers hunted on Wed­nes­day for rebels sus­pected of killing as many as two dozen con­struc­tion work­ers in restive Pa­pua prov­ince, as an eye­wit­ness ac­count sup­plied by the mil­i­tary de­scribed a grisly mass ex­e­cu­tion.

The sur­vivor’s ac­count de­tailed the killing of at least 19 peo­ple, which if con­firmed would mark the dead­li­est bout of vi­o­lence in years to hit a re­gion wracked by a lowlevel in­de­pen­dence in­sur­gency.

A Face­book ac­count pur­port­edly run by the Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army of West Pa­pua (TPNPB) said the armed group had killed 24 work­ers on the or­ders of re­gional com­man­der Ekianus Ko­goya.

Author­i­ties have yet to con­firm how many were killed in the week­end at­tack, but the mil­i­tary said 15 bod­ies that have been re­cov­ered would be flown by he­li­copter to the town of Timika on Thurs­day.

On Wed­nes­day, some 150 mil­i­tary per­son­nel were fo­cus­ing their op­er­a­tion at Nduga, a re­mote moun­tain­ous re­gion where a sta­te­owned con­trac­tor has been build­ing bridges and roads as part of ef­forts to boost in­fras­truc­ture.

Many Pa­puans view In­done­sia as a colo­nial oc­cu­pier and its build­ing work as a way to ex­ert more con­trol over an im­pov­er­ished re­gion that shares a bor­der with Pa­pua New Guinea, an in­de­pen­dent na­tion.

In­done­sian Pres­i­dent Joko Wi­dodo said on Wed­nes­day he backed the hunt for those be­hind what he de­scribed as the “al­leged as­sault”. “I have or­dered the chiefs of the mil­i­tary and na­tional po­lice to chase and ar­rest all the per­pe­tra­tors of these bar­baric and in­hu­mane acts,” he told re­porters in Jakarta.

One sol­dier killed

Po­lice and mil­i­tary teams sent to the area on Mon­day came un­der rebel gun­fire with one sol­dier killed and an­other wounded in the fire­fight, author­i­ties have said.

Four work­ers -- in­clud­ing three suf­fer­ing gun­shot wounds -- were among a dozen civil­ians who have been evac­u­ated from the area so far. On Wed­nes­day, the mil­i­tary sup­plied an ac­count from one sur­vivor iden­ti­fied by his ini­tials “JA” who claimed about 50 rebels en­tered the work­ers’ camp on Satur­day and led them away with their hands tied be­hind their backs.

The fol­low­ing day, the rebels shot dead a group of work­ers, while some tried to es­cape, the ac­count said.

The at­tack­ers al­legedly re­cap­tured six work­ers and slit their throats, ac­cord­ing to the un­in­jured wit­ness, who said at least 19 em­ploy­ees had been killed in all.

Pre­vi­ous lo­cal me­dia re­ports pegged the num­ber of dead be­tween 24 and 31. AFP has con­firmed with rel­a­tives that the eye­wit­ness worked for the con­trac­tor in the area where the killings al­legedly took place, but his ac­count of a mas­sacre could not be in­de­pen­dently ver­i­fied.

In­done­sia rou­tinely blames sep­a­ratists for vi­o­lence in Pa­pua and for­eign me­dia need per­mis­sion to re­port there so ob­tain­ing re­li­able in­for­ma­tion is dif­fi­cult.

The mil­i­tary has long been ac­cused of rights abuses against Pa­pua’s eth­nic Me­lane­sian pop­u­la­tion in­clud­ing ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings of ac­tivists and peace­ful pro­tes­tors.

This week­end, about 500 ac­tivists -- in­clud­ing an Aus­tralian -- were ar­rested in a na­tion­wide po­lice crack­down that co­in­cided with ral­lies on De­cem­ber 1, a date many Pa­puans con­sider their an­niver­sary of in­de­pen­dence from Dutch colo­nial­ists.

Pa­pua de­clared it­self an in­de­pen­dent na­tion on that date in 1961, but neigh­bour­ing In­done­sia took con­trol of the re­source-rich re­gion two years later on the con­di­tion it hold an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum. It of­fi­cially an­nexed Pa­pua in 1969 with a UN-backed vote, widely seen as a sham.

Pa­pua ex­pe­ri­enced sev­eral spasms of vi­o­lence this sum­mer in­clud­ing the killing of three lo­cal peo­ple, al­legedly by rebels.

While con­struc­tion work­ers have been tar­geted in the past, much of the vi­o­lence has in­volved skir­mishes be­tween rebels and In­done­sian se­cu­rity forces.

The group that took re­spon­si­bil­ity for the most re­cent killings is among the most mil­i­tant fac­tions in the Pa­pua in­de­pen­dence move­ment, and its ac­tions could in­spire copy­cat at­tacks, said Sid­ney Jones, di­rec­tor of the Jakartabased In­sti­tute for Pol­icy Anal­y­sis of Con­flict. The tar­get­ing of the mil­i­tary or govern­ment has gen­er­ated a huge mil­i­tary re­sponse in the past.

AFP file photo

OP­ER­A­TION: Some 150 mil­i­tary per­son­nel were fo­cus­ing their op­er­a­tion at Nduga, a re­mote moun­tain­ous re­gion where a sta­te­owned con­trac­tor has been build­ing bridges and roads as part of ef­forts to boost in­fras­truc­ture. -

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