Indonesian soldier shot dead amid more West Papuan unrest, rebels accused
August 4, 2011
An Indonesian soldier was shot dead at a military post in restive Indonesian-ruled West Papua, according to a a Jakarta newspaper report as police and troops hunted rebels blamed for a deadly ambush.
Agence France-Presse news agency cited the Jakarta Globe as reporting police had accused pro-independence rebels of carrying out the shooting on Tuesday, and for opening fire at a helicopter that was evacuating the soldier’s body from the Puncak Jaya district capital of Mulia.
“The helicopter was shot as it was flying over Tingginambut” on Wednesday, Papua police spokesman Wachyono was quoted as saying.
He said the helicopter sustained “no significant damage”.
AFP reports quoted Wachyono as saying rebels with the Free Papua Movement (OPM) were behind both shootings. The rebels could not be reached for comment.
Police, soldiers and elite anti-terror squad personnel were meanwhile “hunting down Papuan separatists” suspected of launching an ambush on Monday which killed four people outside Jayapura, the state-run Antara news agency said.
Investigations are under way but senior Indonesian police have already said the OPM is suspected of carrying out the attack, citing witnesses and the discovery of a rebel Morning Star flag near the location, Antara reported.
The unidentified attackers blocked a road near Jayapura, opened fire on passing vehicles and then attacked passengers with machetes, police said.
An army officer and three other people were killed, while seven were injured, according to police.
A rebel commander for the Jayapura region on Tuesday denied any role in the ambush, telling AFP such attacks were ploys by the armed forces to boost their claims for extra funds and resources from Jakarta.
Indonesia is accused of gross human rights abuses in Papua, a Melanesian-majority Pacific territory sharing a border with neighbouring Papua New Guinea and rich in natural resources.
Poorly armed rebels have been fighting for independence for decades.
Jakarta denies the allegations but refuses to allow foreign media or aid workers into the province to conduct independent inquiries.
The Jakarta Globe said a soldier was wounded in a separate shooting incident in Mulia on Tuesday, when about 10,000 people marched for independence in the provincial capital Jayapura.
About 10,000 Papuans defied a heavy police presence to protest for independence from Indonesia, according to witness reports.
Witnesses have told AFP demonstrators in Jayapura shouted “Free Papua” and demanded the withdrawal of Indonesian troops.
Other protests were reportedly held in Timika, on the southern coast, and in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, where hundreds rallied to express support for an independence referendum of the sort granted to East Timor in 1999.
About 700 heavily armed anti-riot police were deployed in Jayapura, which was tense after unknown gunmen killed four people in a pre-dawn ambush on a road outside the city on Monday.
Police blocked a road to prevent the protesters from reaching the provincial parliament building, although organisers said they had a permit to demonstrate.
“We call for a referendum. This is not Papua’s problem or Indonesia’s problem. This is an international problem. We want independence,” protest coordinator Mako Tambuni said.
Tuesday’s protests were timed to coincide with a meeting of international lawyers, politicians and tribal leaders in Oxford, England, to examine the Papua issue.
The “Road To Freedom” conference, chaired by British MP Andrew Smith, will review the 1969 Act of Free Choice by which Indonesia took control of Papua. Many Papuans and international critics maintain that the vote was a sham.