Four Indonesian soldiers killed in Papua guerilla attack

Soldiers carrying coffins of comrades in Sorong, in Indonesia's breakaway region of Papua, after an ambush killed four Indonesian soldiers and wounded two others. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (AFP) - At least four Indonesian soldiers were killed and two others wounded in an ambush by guerillas in the breakaway region of Papua, the authorities said on Friday (Sept 4).

More than 30 rebels ambushed a military outpost in Maybrat, attacking the soldiers with machetes before escaping into the jungle.

"It was still dark when the attack happened and the perpetrators escaped right away," West Papua military chief I Nyoman Cantiasa said in a video statement made available to AFP on Friday.

Security forces arrested two members of the rebel group responsible for the ambush after hours of searching the jungle, the army said.

The military has ordered a manhunt and vowed to "destroy" the rebels in response to Thursday's killings.

The bodies of the dead soldiers have been flown home for burial, according to the Papua army, while the two wounded are currently being treated at a hospital.

Papua rebels have claimed responsibility for the killings, which took place just a week after the group killed two construction workers in Yahukimo district in the region's highlands.

Tensions in the conflict-wracked region have soared this year, punctuated by deadly clashes after rebels killed Indonesia's top intelligence chief in Papua in April.

Jakarta responded by formally designating the Papuan separatists "terrorists" - a move that sparked fears of more violence and rights abuses.

Indonesia's counter-terrorism laws give the authorities enhanced powers, including holding suspects for several weeks without formal charges.

A former Dutch colony, mineral-rich Papua declared itself independent in 1961 but neighbouring Indonesia took control two years later, promising an independence referendum.

The subsequent vote in favour of staying part of Indonesia was widely considered a sham.

Papua's Melanesian population shares few cultural connections with the rest of Indonesia.

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