Jakarta – Residents in the remote town of Kiwirok in Papua have evacuated amid worsening security situation due to an escalation of attacks by rebels, a local government official said on Friday.
A group of native people attacked the town on Sept. 13, targeting medical workers and burning public facilities including a clinic and a school building. The attack left a female nurse dead.
Gun shootings continued when government troops arrived to evacuate medical workers earlier this week, killing a soldier.
The town in the district of Bintang Mountains is currently "empty" amid threats of attacks, according to Piter Kalakmabim, the deputy of the district head.
"Kiwirok is now empty because people are terrified, but we have delivered logistical supplies," Piter told Jakarta-based news website Kompas.
Piter said those who left the town are native residents. "They took refuge in nearby districts," he said without citing numbers.
The Indonesian Military called the attackers as a group of terrorists and separatists.
Papua Police Chief Insp. Gen. Mathius Fakhiri said 35 personnel have been deployed to Kiwirok from the nearby town of Oksibil to secure the airport and pave way for more troop deployment.
An estimate puts Kiwirok population in fewer than 5,000.
Declaration of war
Two purported videos of Papuan rebels calling for armed resistance and the killing of "immigrants" have been circulating in social media platforms.
In one video, a man identifying himself as Sebby Sambom and claiming to be the spokesman of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), named at least three war zones where "immigrants" could risk being killed if they don't leave immediately.
"We have issued a strong warning to all Indonesian people and immigrants who come and make a living on Papuan soil, especially in the war zones – we ask you to immediately leave the conflict areas, namely Intan Jaya, Puncak Papua and Ndugama," he said in the video.
"The TPNPB will not take any responsibility if you die there."
He also said the group will burn down all buildings in those areas and stressed that "it's an order" from the highest chain of command.
"We will burn cities and buildings, any kind of building. We don't need development by Indonesia. We will build our own nation with our own money once we gain independence," he said.
In another video published in TikTok, a group of armed Papuan men in camouflage military uniform threaten to kill any outsider with "straight hair" – an apparent reference to non-Papuan people.
The group said they will not differentiate between military and civilian targets, nor will they hesitate to kill teachers, medical workers, or construction workers.
"We will burn schools and clinics. Before we adopted this strategy, doctors and paramedics had brandished their pistols and fired at least three shots. That led us to the knowledge that doctors ... come here to kill," one of the men said.
The government has previously denied such a claim.