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Indonesia confirms three more soldiers killed in Papua attack – diplomat

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The attack came as a unit of troops set out to search for a New Zealand pilot captured by Papuan separatists in February.

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The ‘Morning Star’ flag used by the Papuan independence movement.

Credit: Flickr / AK Rockefeller

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Indonesia’s military has confirmed that three soldiers missing after a weekend ambush by separatist fighters in a remote area of ​​Papua have been found dead.

On 15 April, fighters from the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), the armed wing of the Free Papua Movement, opened fire on a group of 36 soldiers on patrol in Nduga Regency, the center of separatist activity in Highland Papua province. According to some international media reports, at least six died after the attack and 21 others fled into the jungle, while nine soldiers are believed to have been captured by the rebels.

Initially, army spokesmen confirmed only one death – that of a soldier who was shot and fell into a ravine. In a statement, Papuan military spokesman Colonel Herman Tarayaman confirmed that the body of this soldier, and that of all three, had since been “evacuated” from the area. Five injured soldiers found the previous day were also airlifted. The Indonesian military says the rest of the troops have returned to their nearest base.

Troops patrolling the area in an attempt to locate and rescue New Zealand pilot Captain Philip Merthens, who was abducted by TPNPB rebels on 7 February after a small plane landed at Paro air base in Nduga Was. Separatists stated that Merthen would not be released until the Indonesian government recognized the independence of Papua, a goal of local independence fighters since the 1960s. Jakarta has promised a stern response to the kidnapping, the first since 1996 by Papuan rebels.

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The announcement came a day after Indonesia’s military chief, Admiral Yudo Margono, rejected TPNPB’s claim that more than a dozen government soldiers had been killed during the attack. In a statement on Monday, rebel spokesman Sebby Sambom said fighters in the TPNPB were Remains of 12 jawans in custodyincluding nine whom he said were “arrested and killed” after being caught in the ambush.

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Yudo and other high-ranking military officials flew to Papua on Monday. “I’m here to find out directly and accurately from our troops on the ground about the real situation so we can evaluate our mission for the pilot,” Margono said. told a news conference in Timika, a town in the neighboring Central Papua province.

Mehrtens’ capture escalated the conflict between the TPNPB and the Indonesian military in Papua, which has been simmering since the territory was incorporated into the Indonesian Republic following a referendum in 1969. Freedom activists claim that it “act of free choicewas in fact very limited and did not reflect the wishes of the indigenous population of the region.

The kidnappings are a sign of how the conflict has intensified over the past decade, as the Indonesian state has sought to integrate the region economically and politically through the development of transport infrastructure and the encouragement of relocation from other parts of the archipelago. increased its efforts.

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Sambom said in a statement earlier that the separatists launched the attack in response to Indonesia’s “massive military operation” in Papua and the killing of two rebels in a shootout with security forces last month. According to The Associated Press.

Indeed, the region appears to be locked in a spiral of conflict that shows no sign of slowing down, as well as retreat. All indications are that the Indonesian government will respond to this latest insurgent attack with force by redoubled its efforts to quell the resistance movement. All of this almost guarantees another reaction.