New shootings indicate spreading of armed conflict in West Papua

Recent armed attacks on Indonesian security forces in the regencies Maybrat, Yahukimo and Pegunungan Bintang over the past weeks indicate the armed conflict is spreading to new regencies in West Papua. While isolated armed clashes have been reportedly occurred in Pegunungan Bintang and Yahukimo throughout 2020, the recent attack against police officers in Maybrat is the first incident of this kind reported from the regency.

The armed conflict recently gained momentum, as members of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB) killed Papuan Security Chief I Gusti Putu Danny Nugraha Karya in the Puncak Regency on 25 April 2021. A few days later, joint security forces launched a massive operation in Puncak (see photo), which reportedly caused the internal displacement of thousands of indigenous villagers.

Throughout 2019 and 2020, the regencies Nduga, Timika, Puncak and Intan Jaya were the hotspots of armed violence with the highest annual numbers of reported armed clashes and fatalities among civilians and combatants. The Nduga Regency was the top hot spot of armed conflict throughout 2019, with 17 armed clashes, followed by the Puncak Regency, with seven reported armed clashes. Three firefights occurred in the regency of Intan Jaya in December 2019. In 2020, the most significant number of armed conflicts was recorded in the regency of Intan Jaya, with more than 20 armed clashes registered in 2020.

Two military members killed in Yahukimo
On 18 May 2021, TPN PB members opened fire at a group of soldiers in the Dekai District of Yahukimo regency. Two military members died, and another one was injured during the attack. The TPN PB claimed responsibility for the shooting, declaring their man had seized three weapons during the incident. Danspos Kostrad 432 Dekai military commander, Fada Lubyantok, urged the perpetrators to return the weapons within 48 hours, indicating that the military will carry out raids if the arms aren’t handed back to the military. The incident threatens the security situation in Yahukimo, which has been largely spared from armed violence. Security force raids would inevitably affect the indigenous population living in the remote areas across Yahukimo.

Four soldiers injured during an armed attack in Pegunungan Bintang
Four members of the Yonif 403/WP and Yonif 310/KK military units were injured during an armed attack in Serambakon District of Pegunungan Bintang Regency. A group of twelve soldiers came under fire as they crossed a bridge in the Yapimakot Village. Security forces have launched an operation in the Serambakon District to track down and arrest the perpetrators.

Attack on a police convoy in Maybrat
Unknown perpetrators fired shots from an ambush at several police cars in the Aifat Tumr District, Maybrat Regency, on 10 April 2021. Nobody was injured during the incident. The local police chief said there is no indication that the TPN PB was responsible for the attack. Armed attacks against security force members have not occurred in Maybrat in years.