28 Jun 2018

West Papua Liberation Army behind deadly Nduga attack

5:02 pm on 28 June 2018

A faction of the West Papua National Liberation Army has claimed responsibility for Monday's deadly shootings in Indonesia's Nduga regency.

Highlands-based Defense Region Command of the West Papua National Liberation Army, or TPNPB.

Highlands-based Defense Region Command of the West Papua National Liberation Army, or TPNPB. Photo: TPNPB

Three people died after gunmen targeted an aircraft transporting Indonesian paramilitary police at the airport of this remote Papuan regency.

Liberation Army gunmen launched an attack at the Trigana Air twin otter which had arrived carrying 18 Brimob personnel.

The paramilitary police had been transported from the Highlands town of Wamena to Nduga to provide security during this week's regional elections.

Two people, including the pilot, were injured before a gunfire ensued on the airfield between the Liberation Army members and Indonesian security forces.

Three people who died have been identified as migrants from Indonesia's South Sulawesi province.

A faction of the Liberation Army said it was responsible for shooting the three people, including a boy, saying he was hit by a stray bullet.

The boy's parents were the other two killed in the violence. According to reports from Papua, they were migrants from South Sulawesi who had been established traders in Nduga's township.

A PNG-based spokesperson for the Liberation Army and the Free West Papua Movment, Sebby Sambom, said their soldiers shot at the man bcause he had pulled out a gun.

"The person from Sulawesi, he took position holding a pistol and tried to shoot the Liberation Army, Free West Papua group... soldiers... That's why the Liberation army shot him Then his wife and son they came and held him. Then his wife was shot..."

The spokesman suggested that the child's death was entirely accidental. However, he alleged that the man killed was one of many migrants from other parts of Indonesia who had come to live in Papua and become undercover intelligence agents assisting Indonesia's security forces in operaions against Papuans.

"We always identify them, we have data," Mr Sembom explained.

"Some Indonesian civillians become businessmen, but they are Indonesian intelligence agents. Indonesian soldiers and police give them small stores or trade house buildings. They're everywhere."

Tensions remain high in Nduga amid bursts of gunfire that have broken out sporadically after the Army dispersed from the airfield following the deadly gunfight.

Meanwhile, the attack in Nduga is one of a series of reported incidents of deadly violence in the Highlands regencies which have disrupted the regional elections taking place this week.

In Puncak Jaya regency, three people died after being shot in Torere district yesterday.

According to CNN Indonesia, Indonesian police blamed the shooting deaths on unidentified gunmen.

Along with reported tribal violence in recent days in Yahukimo regency, the incidents cast doubt on whether the elections will proceed in these areas where Papua's provincial governor Lukas Enembe has strong support.

The Liberation Army has launched several attacks in the region since last year. Two TNI personnel were killed in Nduga last December, prompting reprisal attacks which left two civilians dead and a church burnt.

Around the same time, the Liberation Army declared a general mobilisation of all its soldiers in Papua to carry out operations against the Indonesian state and what it called "the invaders".

As well as independence, the Army's stated goal has been to close the Freeport mine, which is one of the largest sources of revenue for the Indonesian state.