Armed conflict in West Papua aggravates throughout past weeks – over 1,500 IDPs flee to Timika

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The armed conflict in West Papua has significantly aggravated throughout the past weeks. Armed clashes between Indonesian security forces and the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB) were reported from the Papuan regencies Nduga, Pegunungan Bintang, Kerom and Mimika. Many of the clashes resulted in the deaths of security force members. Multiple armed attacks in the regency of Mimika reportedly caused the displacement of over 1,500 indigenous Amungme people from four villages. For the first time, multiple violent incidents within a short time frame occurred in the regency of Pegunungan Bintang. Indonesian security forces suspect that the local TPN PB forces used stolen weapons for the attacks. TPN PB members had retrieve eleven fire arms of various sizes from a crashed military chopper in June 2019.

 

The armed attacks in Pegunugan Bintang took place in early March 2020. The TPN PB claimed responsibility for the killing of a motorcycle taxi driver in the highland town of Oksibil on 7 March 2020. According to a TPN PB press release, the victim was killed because the armed resistance suspected him to work for the Indonesian intelligence. Previously, media sources had reported another shooting in the Oksob District on 3 March 2020. Unknown perpetrators released multiple shots at a truck owned by a private company. The driver was not injured during the attack but the truck went off the road as the driver panicked and lost control over the vehicle. The Indonesian Military (TNI) suspects that the TPN PB is responsible for the attack. TNI representatives assume that the TPN PB used fire arms which they retrieved from a helicopter that they shot down on 28 June 2019 (see intro image).

In the morning of 29 February 2020, TPN PB fighters allegedly shot dead three Indonesian Military (TNI) members in Kibai Village of Kerom Regency, near the border to Papua New Guinea. According to a TPN PB media release, the TNI soldiers were passing Kibai village on a truck as the armed resistance members opened fire at them.

On 26 February 2020, an indigenous woman was shot dead by Indonesian security forces as TPN PB members attacked a military post in the town of Kenyam, Nduga regency. Another indigenous man sustained a bullet wound, while two others were allegedly tortured by security force members after the incident. The TPN PB published a media release shortly after the incident according to which two security force members were killed and one injured during the attack.

TPNPB Attack Tembagapura 2The most concerning escalation of the armed conflict was reported from the regency of Mimika. On 29 February 2020, the TPN PB forces killed a police officer in the village of Arwanop, Tembagapura District. Multiple exchanges of fire between joint security forces and TPN PB fighters occurred in Utikini Village of Kuala Kencana District on 2 March 2020. On the same day, TPB PB fired six shots at a police patrol car in the district of Tembagapura. At least one police officer was wounded by pieces of broken glass when the bullets pierced the windshield of the vehicle. Further clashes allegedly occurred at mile 69 (see image on the right).

Victim Yance Magai editedThe same press release claims that Indonesian security forces kidnapped and killed an indigenous Papuan named Jance Magai near the gold panning site in Nahangia on 26 February 2020. The body was found on 1 March 2020 (see image on the left). According to the press release, the body showed signs of physical torture, among them bullet wounds in the victim’s left leg and knee. The spokesperson of the Papuan Regional Police, Ahmad Kamal denied any involvement of security force members in the killing of Jance Magai. According to Kamal, the TPN PB killed Jance Kamal because they suspected him to be a spy working and cooperating with the police and military.  

On 4 March 2020, TPN PB forces blocked and partly destroyed a road between the town of Tembagapura and Opitawak Village which the Indonesian security forces used to transport supplies to a local military post. Thereupon, an armed clash between the TPN PB and security force members reportedly occurred in Opitawak on 5 March 2020. According to the TPN PB, 5 security force members were killed during the attack. The fatalities were neither confirmed by the police nor the military.

According to TPN PB information, a group of joint security force members were stuck in the villages of Banti 1 and Banti 2. TPBN PB forces repeatedly prevented them from receiving supplies through land convoys and helicopters. The Papuan Police Chief, Paulus Waterpauw, claimed in an interview that his men were able to re-establish the road connection to Banti 1 and Banti 2.

IDPs TembagapuraObservers stated that more than 1,500 indigenous Amungme people from the villages Banti 1, Banti 2, Opitawak and Kimbeli fled to the town of Tembagapura on 6 March 2020 (see image on the right). On 9 March, buses of the mining company PT Freeport Indonesia brought 917 internally displaced persons (IDPs) to the city of Timika, where they stayed with relatives or sought shelter in churches. The day before, observers already counted a number of 614 IDPs who had continued to travel from Tembagapura  to Timika.

The most recent clashes in Mimika took place in the district of Jila on 9 March 2020, where TPN PB members attacked a military post and allegedly killed one Indonesian soldier.