Indonesia to investigate army officers over Papua killings

Indonesia maintains a heavy military presence in Papua, where separatists have fought for independence for decades. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - The authorities in Indonesia's Papua region have detained six army officers and launched an investigation into their alleged involvement in the brutal killing of four civilians last week, military officials said on Monday (Aug 29).

Senior military officer Teguh Muji Angkasa told a televised news briefing that the military and police would conduct a joint investigation.

"We have been given the order to investigate the incident," he said, "and if from the results of the investigation, soldiers were involved, they will be sternly sanctioned."

The military is investigating the alleged involvement of six officers in the killing of four victims, Lieutenant General Chandra W. Sukotjo said.

The victims had been looking to buy weapons from the military officers on Aug 22 before the deal went awry, he said.

Papua police said in a statement that the victims' bodies were mutilated, stuffed into sacks and thrown into a river near the city of Timika. The authorities have not named the suspects.

Indonesia maintains a heavy military presence in Papua, where small groups of separatist fighters have for decades waged a low level, but increasingly deadly battle for independence.

The military has faced accusations of human rights abuses in Papua, which it has denied, but investigations into such allegations are rare.

A spokesman for the separatist West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), called on the government to hold the perpetrators accountable or risk further violence.

"If Indonesian President Joko Widodo does not immediately take responsibility, then the TPNPB together with the Papuan people will take revenge," the spokesman said in a statement on Monday.

Papua police said one of the victims was linked to TPNPB.

Armed conflict in Papua has escalated significantly since 2018, with attacks by the TPNPB becoming deadlier and more frequent, a report by the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) noted in July.

That was largely due to the TPNPB acquiring more weapons by stealing from army posts or purchasing them illegally from rogue officers, IPAC said.

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