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Attackers kill 8 technicians in Indonesia's Papua province

Associated Press - March 3, 2022

Alfian Kartono, Jayapura, Indonesia – Attackers believed to be West Papua separatist rebels killed eight technicians repairing a remote telecommunications tower in Indonesia's restive Papua province, authorities said Thursday.

The technicians were killed Wednesday when more than a dozen gunmen stormed Telkomsel's telecommunication tower while the workers were fixing its transceiver in the mountainous village of Beoga in Puncak district, Papua military spokesperson Col. Aqsha Erlangga said. He said one technician managed to escape the attack with video from a security camera at the scene.

He said security forces tried to recover the bodies of the technicians with a helicopter on Thursday but were hampered by bad weather and heavy fog in the hilly district, a stronghold of separatists who have battled Indonesian rule in the impoverished region since the early 1960s.

"This is an extraordinary crime by the armed separatist criminal group amid the government's efforts to bring economic development," Erlangga said in a statement. He said police and the military were searching for the attackers, who authorities believe belong to the West Papua Liberation Army, the military wing of the Free Papua Organization.

Separately, about 15 members of an armed group attacked a military post in Dambet village in the same district on Thursday, injuring a soldier.

A spokesperson for the rebels couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

The attacks are the latest in a series of violent incidents in recent years in Papua, a former Dutch colony in the western part of New Guinea that is ethnically and culturally distinct from much of Indonesia. Conflicts between indigenous Papuans and Indonesian security forces are common.

Papua was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 after a U.N.-sponsored ballot that was widely seen as a sham. Since then, a low-level insurgency has simmered in the region, which is divided into two provinces, Papua and West Papua.

Indonesia's government, which for decades had a policy of sending Javanese and other Indonesians to settle in Papua, is now trying to spur economic development to dampen the separatist movement. The workers involved in the development are considered outsiders by the separatists.

In December 2018, at least 31 construction workers and a soldier were killed by the West Papua Liberation Army in one of the worst separatist attacks in the province.

Attacks have spiked in the past year, with dozens of rebels, security forces and civilians killed.

Source: https://www.ctinsider.com/news/article/Attackers-kill-8-technicians-in-Indonesia-s-Papua-16974257.ph