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Papuan group suspected of shooting Catholic layman

Note given to priest allegedly by separatists claims victim was an Indonesian police informer

Papuan group suspected of shooting Catholic layman

Boni Bagau’s death on Jan. 30 follows that of Rufinus Tigau (pictured), who was killed on Oct. 28 last year by troops who claimed he was part of a separatist group. (Photo courtesy of Father Marthen Kuayo)

A separatist group in Indonesia’s easternmost province of Papua has claimed responsibility for the murder a Catholic layman, according to a local priest.

The group, known as the KKB, purportedly shot dead Boni Bagau, a parishioner from St. Michael Church in Bilogai, a village in Intan Jaya district, on Jan. 30 after accusing him of spying for police and the military.

Father Yustinus Rahangiar, the parish priest, told UCA News over the phone on Feb. 2 that soon after the murder he found a note claiming to be from the KKB under the door of his residence.

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“It was slipped under the door without an envelope,” the priest said. “The letter was intended for the police and military. It said the group had killed the man for spying for police and the military.” 

Papua has been gripped by a low-level insurgency for decades, with several armed groups seeking independence from Indonesia, which they say took over the region following a flawed referendum.  

The priest said he immediately turned the letter over to the police and that a climate of fear had descended on the locality following the killing.

“We cannot live in peace following the shooting. We are too afraid to go out alone. Such incidents only began in late 2019 after soldiers were deployed to this area,” Father Rahangiar said, calling on Catholics to watch out for their safety.

He said he knew the victim well and that he was a farmer who often took an active part in church activities.

Papua police spokesman Ahmad Mustofa Kamal told UCA News via text message that authorities were still conducting an investigation into the shooting and had yet to determine a motive.

He could not confirm whether the accusation against the dead man was true or whether separatists were responsible.

Bagau’s death follows that of 28-year-old Catholic catechist Rufinus Tigau, who was shot and killed in October last year near his home in Jalae in the same district by soldiers who claimed he was a member of an armed separatist group.

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