West Papuan independence fighters kill Indonesian soldier

Indonesian army soldiers simulating a hostage situation in Central Java. Image: RNZ Pacific

By RNZ Pacific

West Papuan fighters have killed an Indonesian soldier in a renewed threat to Jakarta’s road project there.

State news agency Antara reported the hit-and-run attack on Saturday took place in Nduga regency, where pro-independence forces are waging war on the Indonesia’s military.

An Indonesian researcher, Hipo Wangge, said it was the ninth killing of a security officer by the West Papua Liberation Army, an armed group linked to the Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka – OPM), since April.

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The soldier was reportedly securing the Trans-Papua road project, a major effort by the Indonesian government to develop remote areas of Papua.

In December, part of the project near Nduga was put on hold when Liberation Army fighters were accused of killing 16 construction workers that the movement claimed to be Indonesian soldiers.

The attack – the bloodiest in years to take place in Papua – prompted a massive deployment of Indonesian military and police to Nduga in a hunt for the fighters, sparking sporadic gunfights which have taken dozens of lives in the months since.

Rights groups have said that thousands of people have been displaced from Nduga. According to one group, at least 139 displaced people have died of malnutrition and disease in a temporary camp in nearby Wamena city.

Indonesian military spokesperson Muhammad Aidi told Antara that in Saturday’s attack the soldier suffered a gunshot wound to his waist and later died, with a helicopter rescue effort hampered by bad weather.

  • This article is published under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.
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