Benny Mawel, Jakarta – Five civilians, including minors, were reportedly shot by unidentified assailants in two separate incidents in Papua's Puncak regency last Friday.
Four of them died immediately, while the fifth managed to escape, according to accounts from the victims' relatives.
The first two victims were Manus Murib, 17, and Atanius Wuka, 17, senior high school students from Ilaga district. They were allegedly shot on their way home from Kota Mulia district to Agandugume district.
"On a school holiday, the two just wanted to go home to their parents to celebrate Christmas," said Molu Talenggen, the cousin of Manus, in an interview with The Jakarta Post over the weekend.
Based on Manus' account of the incident, Molu said Manus and Atanius came across armed people clad in black in the wilderness when they arrived in Jaiti village, North Gome district, at 11 a.m.
Molu claimed the unidentified men had given the students guns to hold while they took pictures of them. "Anus felt uncomfortable, so he quickly ran away before being shot at three times," Molu claimed.
Atanius was shot dead on the scene. Manus was shot once in the chest, once near the neck, and one bullet grazed the back of his head. However, he managed to run all the way to his parents' home, Molu said.
Upon his arrival at 10 p.m. that night, Manus was brought to the nearest community health center. As he was being treated, he recorded a video where he described the incident. "There were many of them. They were in all-black uniforms, including black vests and helmets," Manus said in a video that went viral on Saturday.
The same day at noon, about an hour after the shooting, three other civilians were reportedly shot dead in the surrounding area. Among the victims were Akis Alom, 34, a local civil servant, 19-year-old Wapenus Tabuni and 13-year-old Warius Murib. They were in a group of six people traveling from Agandugume district to Ilaga district.
"From Agandugume to Ilaga, there are three ways. The other three took a different path, while the victims took the way through the mountain – a shortcut," said Molu.
They were shot dead on Mount Limbaga, according to Molu's account. Intan Jaya Legislative Council (DPRD) secretary Nenu Tabuni, who represents the victims' families, said none of the victims belonged to any armed groups.
"The troops in black uniforms, according to the local residents, were secretly chasing after Lekagak Telenggen and Militer Murib," Nenu claimed, referring to two leaders of known Papuan militant groups. "These children were shot so that their operation would not be [exposed]."
A spokesperson for the Indonesian Military's (TNI) Joint Defense Area Command III (Kogabwilhan III), based in Papua, Col. Gusti Nyoman Suriastawa, said he had received reports only of the first shooting.
"We haven't identified the perpetrators yet because the local police are still conducting an investigation," he told the Post on Wednesday. Gusti said the perpetrators were not likely to be TNI personnel because the military did not have a post in Ilaga and because military personnel typically carried rifles, not hand guns.
Adjacent to Puncak regency, Intan Jaya is one of the most violence-plagued areas of the country's easternmost province. At the end of last year, two military officers were killed in the regency during a shootout with armed assailants.
The officers were on security duty as the district prepared for Christmas celebrations. More recently, a prominent grassroots figure, Papuan pastor Yeremia Zanambani, was shot dead in Hitadipa district in September. The central government responded by forming a joint fact-finding team (TGPF) to investigate the killings, but excluded the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).
The death of minors in last week's incidents echoed the Paniai shootings in 2014, where four teenagers were killed and which Komnas HAM called a "gross human rights violation". Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko, who at the time was serving as TNI commander, denied accusations that the military had responded improperly. (syk)