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Armed conflict continues in West Papua's highlands

Radio New Zealand - January 31, 2020

Indonesian security forces say a West Papuan was shot dead in a clash with police and military forces in Intan Jaya regency of Papua province.

It's the latest in a series of deadly violence in Papua's highlands region where a proliferation of guns is fuelling ongoing conflict.

Police say the man killed last Sunday in Intan Jaya's Sugapa District was a member of an armed criminal group, a euphemism used by security forces to describe the West Papua Liberation Army.

However, a Liberation Army spokesman, Sebby Sambom, said that the victim was not one of their members.

Mr Sambom said that two other Papuans sustained gunshot wounds in the attack by the Indonesian security forces.

It followed numerous exchanges between the Liberation Army and Indonesian security forces in the region in recent months.

In December, the Liberation Army claimed to have shot dead eight Indonesian troops in Intan Jaya.

Indonesian police and military have been conducting numerous raids in the regency in recent weeks.

Two weeks ago, Papua Police chief Inspector General Paulus Waterpauw said a cache of firearms had been found in a Papuan village in Tigi district of Intan Jaya regency.

He told the Jakarta Post that the guns originated from East Java.

Police said Indonesian military personnel had mobilised around the region during the Christmas period, visiting many Papuan villages, to help maintain peace.

A police spokesman, AM Kamal, said the three Papuans shot last Sunday in Sugapa were attacked in an armed clash with the "armed criminal group".

But the Liberation Army claims the shots were made by a military sniper.

According to Mr Sambom, West Papuans were constantly at risk due to a massive troop build-up by the Indonesian military.

Rights advocates have said that villagers in Intan Jaya and Nduga regencies have reported being fired on or bombed from the air by the Indonesian military.

But Mr Sambom said that the Liberation Army's leader, General Goliath Tabuni, had accepted full responsibility for attacks on Indonesian forces carried out by its divisions throughout West Papua.

Source: https://www.rnz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/408572/armed-conflict-continues-in-west-papua-s-highlands