23 Dec 2018

Indonesia denies using chemical weapons in Papua Highlands

11:28 am on 23 December 2018

Indonesian authorities have denied a report that the military is bombing Papuan villages with chemical weapons.

Indonesian security forces in a Highlands  village as they pursue independence fighters in West Papua's Puncak Jaya regency.

Indonesian security forces in a village of Papua's Highlands region as they pursue independence fighters in October. Photo: Supplied

The military is conducting a joint operation with police in pursuit of the West Papua Liberation Army in and around Nduga regency of Papua's Highlands.

The Liberation Army claimed responsibility for a massacre of at least 17 Indonesian road workers in the region earlier this month.

Australia's Saturday Paper ran a report about the Indonesian military's suspected use of white phosphorus weapons, which are banned under international law, allegedly causing injuries and death in Nduga.

But a statement from Indonesia's government described the allegation as baseless, non-factual and gravely misleading.

It says Indonesia has no possession of any chemical weapons and is a compliant member of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The government says that the military's use of helicopters is "strictly as assistance to law enforcement apparatus".

However, information sourced from Nduga churches includes claims that the security forces launched air strikes in the area on December 4th, shortly after the massacre by the Papuan Liberation Army.

According to Yones Douw, the chairman of the Department of Justice and Peace in Papua's Kingmi Church, there have been three confirmed deaths.

Mr Douw said there were likely to be more casualties because many villagers in this area have fled their homes to the bush to hide from ongoing military operations and would be starving, cold and possibly injured.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Indonesia's military, Muhammed Aidi, also denied any deployment of aerial warfare or the use of chemical weapons.

He suggested the claim at the basis of the Australian media report had mistaken smoke grenades, which he said were used as a camouflage tool, for chemical weapons.

Colonel Aidi said that the claim was propaganda aimed at diverting public attention away from the fact that the Liberation Army, which he called an armed criminal group, had massacred dozens of civillians.

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