Robert Isidorus & Banjir Ambarita
Jayapura. Armed separatists exchanged gunfire with Indonesian security forces in Papua on Monday as police combed the Lanny Jaya district for those allegedly behind last week’s deadly police station attack, a Free Papua Organization (OPM) head said.
“This morning we exchanged fire with the security forces,” said Purom Wenda, the head of the Lanny Jaya branch of the OPM, during a telephone conversation with journalists in Jayapura on Monday.
The local branch of the OPM opened fire after members allegedly met resistance while marching into Tiom, Lanny Jaya, Monday morning. The pro-independence group exchanged fire with members of the Indonesian Military (TNI) and Papua Police.
A civilian, 25-year-old Ferdi Turuallo, was allegedly killed in the crossfire, according to unconfirmed reports. Ferdi was allegedly on his way home from the market when the gunfight broke out.
The Papua Police said they heard of the battle, but did not release any additional details Monday afternoon.
“I heard but I will have to check it first,” Papua Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. I Gede Sumerta Jaya said.
Purom and the Lanny Jaya branch of the OPM have been hunted by police since the group claimed responsibility for the Nov. 27 slaying of three police officers at a Pirime subdistrict station.
The OPM’s main leaders, who are based in Puncak Jaya, denied any connection to the killings. But Purom, who claims to lead a more militant branch of the armed pro-independence group, told the Indonesian news portal tempo.co that he was behind the attack.
“OPM did the shootings. I led the shootings,” he said.
Police said 50 members of the group converged on the small police station, killing three, seizing weapons and setting the building ablaze.
Indonesia’s State Intelligence Agency (BIN) has said the attacks were
meant to serve as a reminder of the OPM ahead of the Dec. 1 anniversary of Papua’s independence from Dutch rule.
Six men were arrested in connection with the attack on Thursday. One was shot in the leg after he reportedly raised a machete in front of security officers.
“We are certainly not going to show any mercy,” Sumerta told Tempo.co on Friday. “But for now, we are waiting on the government to settle the issue internally.”
Indonesian security forces have fought against a low-level insurgency since the resource-rich province was annexed in 1969.
The International Center for Transitional Justice and the Institute of Human Rights Studies and Advocacy (Elsham Papua) have recorded nearly 750 instances of human rights abuses in the remote province since Indonesian forces arrived in 1963, according to a joint report released this year.