On Saturday the 15 April there was a clash between the Free Papua Movement (TPNPB) and the Indonesian security forces (TNI) in the Nduga District. The Security forces were searching for New Zealand pilot Phillip Mehrtens, who has been held by the TPNPB since the 7 February.
Although a bit unclear at the present stage, statements from authorities indicate that one security force member was killed, four injured and a number of TNI missing. The TPNPB said at least 6 security force members were killed.
Joe Collins of AWPA said, "because of the incident there is real concern for civilians in the area and for the pilot Phillip Mehrtens himself, if the military continue operations to rescue him. The military have put their forces on high alert or operation "Battle Standby."
Collins said "also, statement from officials about the situation are not helpful and can only lead to further escalation of violence leading to the security forces conducting more sweeping operations in the area."
(In Benar News report 14 April. The human rights group KontraS Papua, meanwhile, said security forces had burned houses in three villages, and that civilians had gone missing or been shot dead.) https://www.benarnews.org/english/news/indonesian/terror-allegations-04142023154739.html
The Indonesian Vice President Ma'ruf Amin urged members of the National Police (Polri) and Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) to take a firm stand against armed criminal groups (KKB) in Papua (Antara News).
Adm. Yudo Margono, commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) said that the military "would do away with its "soft approach" in dealing with the rebel group" (Benar News).
Collins said, "it must come as a great surprise to West Papuans that the security forces have been using a soft approach to their operations in West Papua. The situation is getting worst with arrests of peaceful demonstrators, military operations causing deaths amongst civilians and creating large numbers if internal refugees.
The security forces and Jakarta should listen to the Civil Society Coalition for Security Sector Reform who urged President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to pursue a peaceful dialogue in the government's effort to free the New Zealand pilot Philip Mark Marthens.
The coalition also urged the government to stop military operations in relation to the effort to find the pilot and in handling conflicts in Papua in general.
"The President and the House of Representatives must stop combat operations and other militaristic approaches to handling the security situation in Papua," a representative from Papua Itu Kita, Michael Himan wrote in a written statement, on Tuesday, April 18. Papua Itu Kita is one of the many human rights watchdogs joined in the coalition. Other members include the Indonesian Legal Aid Association (PBHI), YLBHI, KontraS, and Walhi. (https://en.tempo.co/read/1716614/civil-coalition-urges-govt-to-free-kiwi-pilot-in-papua-through-peaceful-dialogue)
Joe Collins said, "The Australia Government has a real blind spot when it comes to the situation in West Papua. Rarely do we see any mention of the West Papua issue from Foreign affairs yet it is the one issue that could cause major friction between Australia and Indonesia and we are involved. Australia supplies training and arms to the Indonesian security forces. Time for Australia to encourage Jakarta to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit the territory to investigate the ongoing human rights abuses."