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AFP: TPN condemn attack at Nafri and deny involvement

AFP: TPN condemn attack at Nafri and deny involvement

JAYAPURA, Indonesia, Aug 2 AFP - A rebel commander in the Indonesian province of Papua denies involvement in an ambush that killed four people, saying such incidents were the work of the military.

Lambert Pekikir, the Free Papua Movement (OPM) commander in Keerom district outside the provincial capital where the incident took place Monday, said the separatists fighting for independence would not randomly kill their own people.

Indonesian police were quick to blame the rebels for the attack, saying a Morning Star independence flag had been found planted in the ground nearby.

"I strongly condemn those allegations, they're false," Pekikir told AFP by phone from an unknown location.

"The OPM wasn't responsible for the shooting as there's been an order from our headquarters to lay down our arms."

The unidentified attackers blocked a road near the provincial capital Jayapura, opened fire on passing vehicles and then attacked the shocked passengers with machetes, police said.

An army officer and three others were killed, while seven were injured.

The allegations and denials are typical of the murky security environment in Papua, a remote but resource-rich territory on the western half of New Guinea island that has been ruled by Indonesia since the 1960s.

Indigenous Melanesian rebels often armed with little more than bows and arrows are fighting a low-intensity insurgency against Indonesian rule to end what they say is the oppression and exploitation of their people.

The Indonesian military has long been accused of serious human rights abuses against Papuan civilians, as well as massive corruption in the form of protection rackets for mining operations and illegal logging.

"When there's a shooting, that's certainly committed by the military, if not the police. They're using OPM as a scapegoat by pushing the blame on us," Pekikir said.

The allegations are difficult to confirm because foreign journalists and rights workers are banned from entering the province to report on such issues, despite Indonesia's assurances that the rebels' claims are baseless.

Jayapura police chief Imam Setiawan said a investigation was under way into Monday's attack. On Monday he said the pre-dawn ambush was believed to be the work of the OPM.

The incident came ahead of a pro-independence protest planned for Tuesday in Jayapura.

AFP maur

ENDS

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