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Child killed, another injured as rebels, Indonesian soldiers clash in Papua

Benar News - April 8, 2024

Pizaro Gozali Idrus – A gunfight between separatist Papuan rebels and government security forces killed a 12-year-old boy and injured a 6-year-old girl who were caught in crossfire on Monday, security authorities and a rebel spokesman said.

Shooting erupted when rebels attacked a security post in Intan Jaya, a regency of Central Papua province, in an attempt to free Bui Wonda, who had been arrested on suspicion of supplying weapons and ammunition to the group, according to a joint statement from the police and military.

"One of the victims died of his injuries. The other victim is being treated for a gunshot wound to her left hand," said Bayu Suseno, spokesman for a military task force fighting the regional insurgency.

Bayu did not identify the victims. Heavy gunfire resulted in severe damage to the security post.

The children were caught in crossfire during the two-hour clash in Sugapa, the main town in Intan Jaya, said Sebby Sambom, spokesman for the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) rebels.

Sambom blamed Indonesia's central government for the escalating conflict in the far-eastern Papua region and called for immediate peace talks facilitated by the United Nations.

"If Indonesia allows this to continue, then civilians will continue to be victims," he told BenarNews.

Papua, a resource-rich region on the western half of New Guinea island, was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 after a disputed U.N.-sponsored referendum.

A separatist insurgency has simmered ever since. Indonesia has labeled the TPNPB a terrorist organization and maintains a significant military presence in the region.

Recent violence

Last Thursday, Indonesian security forces killed two suspected rebels in a shootout in Mimika regency near the Grasberg Mine, the world's largest gold and copper mine operated by a local subsidiary of U.S.-based mining giant Freeport McMoRan.

The dead insurgents, identified as Abu Bakar Kogoya, 28, and Damianus Magay, 21, served as commanders of local rebel operations, task force chief Faizal Ramadani said.

In two separate incidents, rebels fatally stabbed two civilians on March 30 and earlier this month in Yahukimo regency, the task force said.

The victims were a 23-year-old water delivery driver and a 55-year-old civil servant, it said.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of life of innocent civilians in these senseless attacks," Faizal said. "We will continue to provide support to the victims and their families, and we will do everything in our power to bring the perpetrators to justice."

The leaders of the Papua office of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) and the Papua Justice and Integrity Humanitarian Foundation spoke out against the gunfight.

"Civil armed groups should consider the safety of civilians and not hastily open fire indiscriminately in residential areas even if precautions have been considered," Komnas HAM's Frits Ramandey told BenarNews.

Theo Hesegem, the foundation's executive director, called on the government and the rebels to be honest if evidence emerged about who shot the children.

"Blaming each other will not end the violence in Papua," he said.

"Both sides should refrain from engaging in battles amid cities crowded with people, especially now that students have become victims. They should avoid civilian populations to prevent them from becoming victims," he said.

Human rights groups have accused the Indonesian military of abuses in Papua, including extrajudicial killings and suppression of dissent. Jakarta has denied these accusations.

Last month, the Indonesian military apologized to Papuans after a video circulated online showing an indigenous Papuan man allegedly being tortured by soldiers. The incident prompted widespread outrage and calls for accountability.

The video showed troops allegedly beating and slashing the Papuan in Central Papua in February. Military officials said they had detained 13 soldiers as suspects in the abuse.

Source: https://www.benarnews.org/english/news/indonesian/deadly-gunfight-04082024124642.htm