Jayapura. A village chief was shot dead in Indonesia’s restive Papua province on Sunday, Indonesian military said, blaming separatists who are celebrating the founding of an independence movement.
Up to 30 gunmen had fired shots at village chief Johanes Yanafrom, who was riding a motorcycle in Keerom district outside the provincial capital Jayapura, Erwin Syafitri, commander of the Cendrawasih Military Command that oversees military operations in Papua, told reporters.
“He died on the spot after he was hit in the head and chest,” he said.
Indonesian military (TNI) were quick to blame rebels from the pro-independence Free Papua Movement (OPM), which celebrated its 47th anniversary on Sunday, for the latest attack.
“The group comprised of 20 to 30 people and they were all armed with rifles. They are from the OPM led by Lambert Pekikir. We believe they have escaped to the mountains and we are chasing after them,” he added.
Pekikir is the OPM commander in Keerom district.
Syafitri said the group also fired shots at a military patrol car, hitting the roof and side window and injuring a soldier.
The OPM separatists had also raised four banned Morning Star flags in Jayapura and Wamena districts, he said. The OPM had called on their supporters to raise the Papuan flag as part of the anniversary celebrations.
Displaying separatist symbols such as the Morning Star is considered an act of treason in Indonesia under the criminal code and several perpetrators are serving 20-year jail terms for the offense.
Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto condemned Sunday’s attacks and urged the security forces to arrest the perpetrators.
Gun attacks are not uncommon in the Papua region in the resource-rich region, where poorly-armed separatist groups have for decades fought a low-level insurgency for the mostly ethnic Melanesian population.
Since a German tourist was shot and wounded on a Papuan beach on May 29 by suspected separatists, seven civilians and a soldier have died in shootings and other violence, according to the human rights group Kontras.