Apriza Pinandita, Jakarta – The Indonesian Embassy in Wellington has expressed its deepest condolences over the shooting incident that left a New Zealander employee of the gold and copper mining company PT Freeport Indonesia in Papua dead and in which several Indonesian staff were also wounded.
The attack by a group of gunmen took place on Monday afternoon at the company site in Kuala Kencana district in Timika, the capital city of Mimika regency.
In a statement on Tuesday, Indonesian Ambassador to New Zealand Tantowi Yahya expressed his serious concerns over the incident and stressed that such an act "could not be justified from any perspective".
Tantowi said that armed gangs in Papua always claimed they only attacked security forces, but the facts showed that most of their victims were civilians.
The shooting in Kuala Kencana would only add to the burden on the people and security forces in Papua, who were now working hard to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, he added.
"It demonstrates that the armed criminals never care about the impact of their actions on Papuans. I hope this will open the eyes of many people to the true face of these armed gangs," Tantowi went on, "Our deepest condolences to the family of the victims. We stand ready to help when needed."
The New Zealander, identified as Graeme Thomas Wall, was engaged in construction work with colleagues on the company site in Kuala Kencana when the shooting took place at around 2 p.m. on Monday, Freeport Indonesia spokesperson Riza Pratama confirmed.
The shooting also left two other workers, namely Jibril M.A. Bahar and Ucok Simanungkalit, wounded. They were admitted to Tembagapura Hospital with serious injuries. Four other people sustained minor injuries and were treated in the company's office, Riza said.
The Indonesian Embassy in Wellington said that according to the information collected by the police, the shooting was perpetrated by a group of eight people, three of whom were carrying rifles.
Based on witnesses' accounts, the police have identified two of the shooters as Lino Mom Ilmar and Antonius Aim, who are known to be members of an armed criminal group led by Joni Botak, the embassy said.
Separatist group the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), however, through its Timika operational commander Hengky Wamang, claimed responsibility for the shooting to The Jakarta Post.
Local authorities and Freeport security officers have secured the location and evacuated all workers and residents near the vicinity following the attack.
Freeport management has also issued an incident notification alert asking workers to postpone all activities and find shelter following the shooting.
Papua has been the hotbed of separatism for years and armed groups, which authorities say operate in several regencies in the province, are reported to have been behind numerous violent incidents in the region.
The latest shooting incident followed weeks of tensions in areas around the Freeport mining site. The police said some 790 people living around the mining site fled their homes on March 7 to take refuge at the Tembagapura Police headquarters in Timika over fears of an armed gang, which had reportedly terrorized the villagers.