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Military to continue crackdown on rebels in Papua despite local criticism

Jakarta Post - December 17, 2018

The government is maintaining its security focused approach as it hunts down members of an armed rebel group believed to have been responsible for the killing of dozens of construction workers on Dec. 1 in Nduga Regency, Papua, despite local figures' plea for the government to end the armed conflict in the easternmost province.

"The laws, [even] international law, allow us to do that. When there are people who declare hostility against the government, it is justified to carry out military action [to address the issue]," Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto said in Jakarta on Monday.

The Indonesian Military (TNI) has been accused of killing five civilians as it continues to hunt down the armed rebel group, which is linked to the Free Papua Movement (OPM). The government has denied the allegation.

"We are not trying to violate human rights, we are trying to stop the violations. There will be more victims if we remain calm," he added.

The government will also not negotiate with rebels in Papua. "They attempted to mess with the country, and we don't want to listen," he said.

Local leaders in Papua have accused the TNI of using explosives and firing guns while hunting down the rebels, resulting in collateral damage and putting civilians caught in the armed conflict in greater danger.

Rev. Benny Giay, chairman of the Kemah Injili Church Sinode of Papua, confirmed that five civilians two in Mbua and three in Yigi had been killed when security personnel were attempting to retrieve the bodies of the construction workers, who were employed by state-owned company PT Istaka Karya.

"I'm pretty sure that [explosives] were involved. There were seven [explosions] in Yigi and five on Mount Kabo," he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

He added that hundreds of villagers across Nduga had fled into the forests since Dec. 3 because of the military crackdown. Their precise whereabouts remain unknown.

Odizeus Beanal, the director of the Amungme tribal council (Lemasa) claimed he had been told there was a civilian casualty in Nduga because of a military raid.

"TNI soldiers have also launched attacks outside the war zones. They prefer to remain in the village and torture the villagers or kill innocent people," he claimed.

Wiranto denied the allegations, saying the TNI had never used explosives in Papua. "[Explosives] are expensive. This is their propaganda," Wiranto said. (ggq/swd)

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/12/17/military-to-continue-crackdown-on-rebels-in-papua-despite-local-criticism.html.

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