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Gunmen kill 10 civilians in Indonesia’s Papua

Pastor among dead as Christians call on authorities to do more to stop an escalation of violence in the restive region
Members of the West Papua National Liberation Army and Free Papua Movement (TPNPB-OPM) are seen in this file photo

Members of the West Papua National Liberation Army and Free Papua Movement (TPNPB-OPM) are seen in this file photo. (Photo: TPNPB-OPM’s Facebook)

Published: July 18, 2022 07:57 AM GMT

Gunmen opened fire on civilians and killed 10 people including a Protestant pastor over the weekend in Indonesia’s restive Papua province.

At least another two civilians were seriously wounded in the attack on July 16 in Nogolait village of Nduga district, Papua police spokesman Ahmad Mustofa Kamal said on July 17.

At least 20 men, some of them armed, stopped a truck and fired at the people on board, Kamal said.

Some victims were traders transporting goods to another village, while the pastor, Eliaser Baner, was on his way to Wamena, capital of Jayawijaya district, to attend a Church conference, he said.

The assailants opened fire on the truck from 50 meters when it stopped and continued firing as the driver attempted to flee.

The police spokesman said additional forces were deployed to hunt the members of an armed criminal group led by a figure called, Egianus Kogoya.

 "We call on policemen and military personnel to take preventive measures so that such killings will not happen again"

Christian groups condemned the attack, called for justice for the victims and criticized the authorities for failing to curb conflict in the region.

“We want the government to form an independent investigation team to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the killings of civilians in the village,” Reverend Henrek Lokra, executive secretary of the Justice and Peace Desk at the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, said in a statement on July 18.

“We call on policemen and military personnel to take preventive measures so that such killings will not happen again and — together with all social elements — to create peace,” he said.

He suggested that Christians in the region continue to offer humanitarian support to villagers and those affected by the latest attack and called for “a coalition of humanity” in the region.

Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International-Indonesia, condemned the “cruel” killings.

“It is the time for the state to stop the cycle of violence in Papua. … Many parties such as Papuan activists, academicians and university students have urged the state to evaluate its security approach,” he said.

"The state must also correct all policy blunders, starting from labeling people terrorists" 

He said the approach — instead of preventing human rights violations — had contributed to violence victimizing many civilians.

“Besides evaluating its security approach, the state must also correct all policy blunders, starting from labeling people terrorists to centralized policies such as the new autonomous region and special autonomy which are implemented without the participation of the Papuan people,” he said.

He asserted that the state must prevent an escalation in violence and the victimization of civilians.

Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost Christian-majority province, has endured a bloody insurgency waged by the West Papua National Liberation Army and Free Papua Movement since its annexation by Indonesia in the 1960s after the end of Dutch colonial rule. Thousands have been killed and tens of thousands displaced in the conflict.

However, violence has significantly escalated in the last couple of years amid the government’s plan to divide the region further from two to six provinces, citing administrative and development reasons. The plan has triggered protests with opponents claiming the authorities aim to assert more control over the resource-rich region.

On March 2, suspected rebels shot dead eight workers carrying out a Communication and Information Technology Ministry project in Punchak district.

From 2010 to March this year, Papua has recorded 348 acts of violence, according to a study by Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta. At least 464 people including 320 civilians were killed and 1,654 people, mostly civilians, were wounded.

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