Papua, 10 die in army and rebel shoot-out
by Mathias Hariyadi

The soldiers were ambushed and attacked by rebels with poisonous arrows, spears and rifles. The helicopters that intervened to recover the bodies also attacked. The insurrection for the independence of the region has been underway since 1969.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Three soldiers of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) and a number between seven and 10 separatist rebels lost their lives in a gun battle in the turbulent province of Papua. Muhammad Aidi, military spokesman for the region, reports that the gun battle took place around eight o'clock yesterday morning in Mugi, district in the regency of Nduga - where last December the main suspects, the militiamen of the National Liberation Army of West Papua (Tpnpb), claimed the massacre of 31 workers and a soldier.

A unit of 25 soldiers from Jakarta had just arrived in the village of Yigi to escort workers at the construction site of a Trans Papua Road bridge, when it fell victim to the rebel attack.

"They were between 50 and 70 people," says Aidi. TNI states that Egianus Kogoya was the head of the group. According to rumors, his guerrillas were equipped with modern rifles and traditional weapons, such as poisonous arrows and spears.

The three dead soldiers are Mirwariyadin, Yusdin and Siswanto Bayu Aji. Their remains will soon be transported to their respective hometowns, located in the provinces of West Nusa Tenggara (Ntb), South Sulawesi and Central Java.

After several minutes of crossfire, the Armed Forces declare, the separatist group left the crime scene and escaped into the forest, bringing their dead comrades with them.

The helicopters used by TNI to evacuate the soldiers' bodies were attacked by the separatist group in the late afternoon, but the pilots successfully completed the mission and returned to base.

Since the region's annexation to Indonesia in 1969, a low-profile insurgency for independence has been underway in the Papua region, led by armed groups such as the Tpnpb and the Free Papua Movement (OPM).

Last April, Widodo was the first Indonesian president to visit the remote territory. Local tribes and their leaders have repeatedly filed complaints against Jakarta for over-exploitation of natural resources.