An Indonesian regional intelligence chief has been killed in an ambush by rebels in restive Papua region, the military confirmed as the country’s president vowed to crush the separatists.
General I Gusti Putu Danny Karya Nugraha, who headed Papua’s intelligence agency, was killed during a shoot-out on Monday after rebels opened fire at a patrolling security forces unit in the Papuan highlands on Sunday.
“He was in the area as part of the operation to restore security and to boost the morale of locals in the region following a series of attacks by separatist and terrorist groups,” National Intelligence Agency spokesman Wawan Purwanto told AFP news agency.
President Joko Widodo said on Monday he had ordered the police and military “to chase and arrest” all members of the rebel groups in the remote eastern province.
“I want to emphasise again that there is no place for armed groups in Papua,” Widodo said.
The clashes started on April 8 in Indonesia’s easternmost Papua province after rebels set fire to three schools and shot dead a teacher in Beoga village in Puncak district. Another teacher was also killed a day later as rebels fired at a teachers’ housing complex and burned down the home of a tribal chief in Beoga.
Police, military and intelligence forces joined Operation Nemangkawi to find the attackers, who authorities believe belong to the West Papua Liberation Army, the military wing of the Free Papua Organization.
Papua rebel spokesman Sebby Sambon claimed responsibility for the attack, adding there were no casualties on their side.
“We also shot at other soldiers but we missed them,” Sambon told AFP.
Indonesian security forces have for years been dogged by allegations of widespread rights abuses against Papua’s ethnic Melanesian population including extrajudicial killings of activists and peaceful protesters in their efforts to crush the rebel groups.
Papua shares a border with independent Papua New Guinea on the island of New Guinea just north of Australia.
A former Dutch colony, Papua declared itself independent in 1961, but neighbouring Indonesia took control of the region two years later with the promise of holding an independence referendum.
The subsequent vote in favour of staying part of Indonesia was widely considered a sham.
Jakarta keeps a tight grip on the resource-rich region, which experiences recurring spasms of violence.