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Police Call on Densus 88 to stem violence

Jakarta Globe - August 4, 2011

Farouk Arnaz & Camelia Pasandaran – The National Police said on Wednesday that they had sent members of their elite counterterrorism unit to Papua after a recent spate of violence in the restive region.

"We have dispatched crime scene investigators and Densus 88 officers to Nafri to help Papua police hunt for the perpetrators," spokesman Insp. Gen. Anton Bachrul Alam said, referring to the antiterror unit.

Although Densus 88 is charged with uncovering terror networks across the country, police often classify separatist activities as a form of terrorism.

At least four people, including an Army officer, were killed in an ambush by suspected armed separatists in Nafri village, on the outskirts of the Papuan capital of Jayapura, on Monday morning.

Jayapura Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Imam Setiawan said unidentified assailants sprayed a small bus with bullets as it passed through the village. The attackers then reportedly chased down the panicked passengers with machetes and axes.

Since July, at least five Army members in Puncak Jaya district have been killed in a string of shootouts with suspected members of the Free Papua Movement, or OPM. On Friday, police in Paniai district engaged in a standoff with at least 16 armed men.

"We suspect that the crimes in Papua are increasing recently in relation to a meeting in the UK," Anton said, referring to a meeting coordinated by the Free West Papua Campaign and the International Lawyers for West Papua, which was held on Tuesday in Oxford, England. "The perpetrators want to attract more world attention."

Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said the government would take any measures necessary to ensure stability in the province.

"There is tension in several areas, such as Paniai, Puncak Jaya and Abepura," he said. "There is a political problem there, mainly efforts to raise the Morning Star flag," he said referring to the banned symbol of the rebel group. "But the main thing is to protect the unity of Indonesia."

Densus 88 attracted international attention last year for allegedly torturing 12 suspected separatists who were arrested for possessing an outlawed South Maluku Republic (RMS) flag.