Police in Papua's Deiyai district patrol Wagete village following the shooting of a Papuan youth by police in May 2019. (Photo: Benny Mawel/UCA News)
An elementary school student in Papua province was killed and another injured after being shot during a clash between the Indonesian military and rebels that also claimed the lives of two other people.
The children were hit during a military operation against insurgents in the province’s Intan Jaya district on Feb. 18, said Father Yustinus Rahangiar, a priest in Puncak Jaya in Timika Diocese.
Melki Tipagau, an 11-year-old boy, was killed, while Martina Sani, a 12-year-old girl, was wounded and flown to a hospital in Timika, the priest said.
Both were sixth-graders at a church-run elementary school in Bilogai where the priest also teaches.
He denied the military's claims that Tipagau was 18 and Sani 14 and that the boy was a rebel.
Tribal chief Kayus Sani, 51, and Heletina Sani were also killed during the clash, according to local news portal Suarapapua.com.
In a statement, military spokesman Eko Daryanto said Tipagau was shot “because he carried a weapon” but did not reveal how Sani was wounded and the other victims killed.
Theo Hesegem, head of local activist group Advocacy Network for Law Enforcement and Human Rights, accused the military of trying to avoid admitting they had made a mistake.
"This adds more pain to the wounds of Papuan people, especially the families of the victims," he told UCA News on Feb. 21. "If they shot the wrong people, they should confess and take responsibility for their actions."
Meanwhile, activist priest Father John Djonga called for an official investigation into the clash.
"It cannot be justified that children are shot. There must be an investigation to make everything clear," he said. "We hope there is a strong commitment to investigate this, by involving independent bodies."
Rights groups have often accused the Indonesian military of committing rights violations to quell an insurgency that has been waged in the region since Indonesia took control of Papua in the sixties.
This incident comes on the heels of a report released by Indonesia’s Human Rights Commission on Feb. 15 which said the military committed "a gross human rights violation” by killing four students during a December 2014 protest in Papua’s Pania district.