Victor Mambor, Jayapura – A foreign employee of gold and copper mining company PT Freeport Indonesia was shot dead on Monday by gunmen in Timika, the capital city of Mimika regency in Papua.
The employee, identified as Graeme Thomas Wall, was engaged in construction work with colleagues on the company site in Kuala Kencana district when the shooting took place on Monday afternoon, Freeport Indonesia spokesperson Riza Pratama said.
"The shooting happened on Monday, March 30, at around 2 p.m. local time. We express our deep condolences for one of our workers who was killed in the shooting at the office complex of Freeport Indonesia," Riza told The Jakarta Poston Monday.
Two of Wall's colleagues, identified as Jibril Wahar and Yosephine, were admitted to Tembagapura Hospital with serious injuries, Riza said. Four other people sustained minor injuries and were treated in the office.
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 issued an incident notification alert asking workers to postpone all activities and find shelter following the shooting.
"We will provide further information when there are reports of new developments from this incident," Riza said.
Papua Police chief Paulus Waterpauw alleged that the perpetrators who launched the attack were under the command of Joni Botak, the leader of an armed gang operating in the Timika area, and who is also on the police's most-wanted list.
"The group is now being hunted by our joint team," Waterpauw said.
Separatist group West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), however, claimed responsibility for the shooting.
"Our battlefield is at the Freeport and Grassberg mining sites. Kuala Kencana is also a war zone. We will not stop until Freeport closes down, so they better close at once," TPNPB Timika operational commander Hengky Wamang told the Post.
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.
Earlier this month, the police said some 790 people fled their homes in mountainous areas around the Freeport mining site on March 7 to take refuge at the Tembagapura Police headquarters in Timika over fears of an armed criminal group, which had reportedly terrorized the villagers.
Security authorities previously reported that armed groups had been shooting at Indonesian Military (TNI) and police guard posts. The residents' access to basic needs, such as food and health care, had reportedly been restricted by armed men who blocked roads.
Authorities also claimed that the local residents were still traumatized from their previous encounter with the armed group in November 2017, when its members blocked access into and out of several villages. (mfp)