The attack occurred on the Nduga highland, a region where tensions are running high after the Indonesian government approved a plan recently to split the two existing Papuan provinces into five. Local communities fear further militarisation under the guise of development. In the past few months, what had been a low-intensity conflict for decades has turned more violent.
Jayapura (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Armed separatists shot dead nine people this morning in Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost region, Indonesian police reported.
The attack, the worst in recent years, occurred in a remote area in the Nduga highland, security forces in Jayapura told the Antara state news agency.
The incident comes a few days after protests broke out against a new law splitting the provinces of Papua and West Papua to create three new ones: South Papua, Central Papua, and Papua Plateau.
For the government, the new provinces will boost development, improve public services delivery, and create more opportunities for Papuans to enter the public service.
Critics object that the move will give the central government more power over the distant and resource-rich region, where pro-independence forces have been waging a low-intensity guerrilla war since Indonesia annexed in it in 1969 following a controversial UN-supervised vote.
Local communities fear in particular that the new provinces will be a pretext for further militarisation of the territory and lead to the influx of Indonesian settlers and officials to fill the posts created by the new provincial bureaucracies.
The West Papua Liberation Army – which the Indonesian government has designated as a terrorist organisation – rejected the administrative split, threatening to kill any official involved.
A report released by the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict this week notes that the West Papua Liberation Army has “unleashed an unprecedented level of violence in Papua” since its “Declaration of War” in 2018, primarily driven by the group’s ability to acquire more weapons.
According to the report, attacks by Papuan separatists are increasingly engaging Indonesian security forces and attacks against civilians are also up.