An Indonesian police officer and five Papuan independence fighters were killed in an ongoing clash between security forces and a rebel group in restive Papua Province, authorities said yesterday.
The clashes began early this month in Indonesia’s Papua Province after rebels set fire to schools and shot to death two teachers in Puncak district’s Beoga village.
Police, military and intelligence forces joined together to find the attackers, who authorities believe belong to the West Papua Liberation Army, the military wing of the Free Papua Organization.
Rebels in Papua have been fighting a low-level insurgency since the early 1960s, when Indonesia annexed the region, a former Dutch colony. Papua was formally incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 after a UN-sponsored ballot that was considered a sham by many.
Papua Police Chief Mathius Fakhiri said that a joint military and police force killed five of the Papuan fighters in a battle with dozens of rebels armed with military-grade weapons, as well as axes and arrows in Makki village on Tuesday.
A police officer died after being shot in the stomach, while two others were injured, he said.
Security forces on Tuesday managed to evacuate the body and injured officers to a hospital in nearby Mimika district, near the mining town of Tembagapura, while the joint force was hunting other rebels who fled to the jungle, Fakhiri said.
West Papua Liberation Army spokesman Sebby Sambom said that two other fighters were also injured in the battle.
Tuesday’s clash happened two days after Papuan State Intelligence Agency Chief Brigadier General Gusti Putu Danny Nugraha was shot in the head and died in a rebel ambush.
The ambush occurred while the general was patrolling Dambet village in Puncak district by motorcycle with 13 other personnel, after rebels set fire to an elementary school and houses in the village.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has ordered government forces to hunt down the rebels.
“I emphasize that there is no place for armed criminal groups in Papua and in all corners of the country,” Widodo said in televised remarks on Monday.
Attacks by rebels in several districts in Papua have spiked in the past year, including at the Grasberg Mine.
The Grasberg Mine’s vast gold and copper reserves have been exploited for decades by US-based Freeport-McMoRan, damaging the surrounding environment while providing significant tax income for the Indonesian government.
Papuans have benefited little from the mine, and are poorer and more likely to die young than those elsewhere in Indonesia.
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